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Anti-Slavery conference spearheads fight against modern slavery

1 November 2023

Experts and practitioners came together to tackle the urgent and complex issue of modern slavery at The Anti-Slavery Wales Conference 2023, an event jointly hosted by Cardiff Business School and Welsh Government.

Held at Cardiff Business School on 18 October to mark Anti-Slavery Day, the Anti-Slavery Wales Conference 2023 brought together various stakeholders uniting for change. Attendees included representatives from the public, private and third sectors, as well as individuals with lived experiences of modern slavery.

The event was co-chaired by Dr Maryam Lotfi, Lecturer in Supply Chain Management at Cardiff Business School, and Mr Joshua Vuglar, Head of Modern Slavery and Workers’ Rights at Welsh Government.

The conference revolved around four key themes outlined by the Anti-Slavery Wales Forum, including:

  • victims and survivors
  • prevention
  • training and awareness
  • supply chain and international issues
Professor Rachel Ashworth, Dean and Head of Cardiff Business School welcoming the audience.

Professor Rachel Ashworth, Dean and Head of Cardiff Business School, delivered the conference opening address, saying:

"We need to make sure all our efforts in this school make a difference to those being trafficked, to those being enslaved, whether that's here in Wales or across the world.”

She added: “We all have a key role to play today - when we come together we can be more powerful than we think and deliver the change we want to see."

Hannah Blythyn MS delivering the opening remarks.

Next to speak was The Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn MS, who talked about the challenges of modern slavery in Wales.

She expressed appreciation to Cardiff University for establishing the Modern Slavery and Social Sustainability Research Group. Conference co-chair, Dr Maryam Lotfi, is co-director of the research group, a high-profile, cutting-edge, proactive research collaboration on modern slavery and social sustainability, the first of its kind in Wales and the UK. The group was set up by Cardiff Business School and Cardiff University’s Social Science Research Park (SPARK).

Dame Sara Thornton delivering her speech.

A key speaker at the conference was Dame Sara Thornton, former Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and Professor of Practice in Modern Slavery Policy at the University of Nottingham. She delivered a speech outlining challenges that urgently need to be addressed.

Speaking about the Modern Slavery Act 2015, Dame Sara Thornton claimed that the UK government could do more to build on this, including:

  • Extending the law to the public sector
  • Making reporting mandatory for certain sectors
  • Establishing a single reporting deadline
  • Introducing sanctions for compliance

She said little progress has been made, leading to the UK falling behind the EU and other countries in addressing modern slavery.

Conference co-chairs, Joshua Vuglar and Dr Maryam Lotfi.

Dr Maryam Lotfi delivered a talk at the event on ‘modern slavery and the global supply chain: the power of research for international impact’. She said:

“Modern slavery in supply chains is a global issue. Our approach should be zoom-in-zoom out. Otherwise, we might have a Wales free from slavery but we are still consuming and importing the goods that are produced somewhere else by modern slavery.”

Dr Lotfi added: “modern slavery is a complex issue that can only be addressed through multi-stakeholder collaborative initiatives. It is highly dynamic, and even with adequate preparation, there are high-impact risks that can affect the global scenario.”

Throughout the morning session, attendees were engaged by a series of impactful speakers, followed by stimulating panel discussions in the afternoon. The conference drew 212 attendees in-person and online, making it a significant event addressing the critical issue of modern slavery in Wales.

For more information, please contact Dr Maryam Lotfi. (

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