AVPN Global Conference 2023 | 20 - 22 June 2023


Issara Institute: Expanding Workers’ Rights and ending Exploitation in Southeast Asia

Issara Institute aims to end labour exploitation, including forced labour and human trafficking, by transforming the systems and behaviours perpetuating labour exploitation, and empowering rights-holders in Southeast Asia.


Issara Institute

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Social causes


SDGs covered

Endorsed by

Target Foundation

Market of Implementation

  • Cambodia
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Thailand


Labour migration can be a positive livelihood strategy for migrants to reduce poverty and improve the well-being of their families and communities. However, migrant workers are routinely exploited in recruitment and employment, facing debt bondage, trafficking, and forced labour - an estimated 25 million globally, with 17 million in Asia. Human trafficking and forced labour perpetuate poverty by keeping money in the hands of exploitative brokers and businesses that should be flowing back to migrants and their families and communities.

Global brands and retailers are mandated by numerous laws and conventions to ensure they are not importing and selling products tainted by forced labour. But where NGOs see forced labour, corporations often do not. Why? Because NGOs hear directly from workers who trust them, and businesses rely on audits, which workers do not trust.

This is what we at the Issara Institute are seeking to change - forced labour and poverty being perpetuated by global businesses purchasing based on poor data.


At Issara Institute, we help workers actively identify and avoid exploitation, and to change the systems from within. Through our theory of change, we works directly with

  1. Workers and the NGOs supporting them,
  2. Recruiters and employers, and
  3. Government and global brands and retailers

For this, long-term, locally-driven partnerships with local NGOs, business, and government are key, while worker voice and innovation allow us to safeguard workers and create scalable technologies to modernise and professionalise the key systems involved in human rights and responsible sourcing: international labour recruitment, workplace grievance mechanisms, and supply chain risk management.

Our unique technologies and partnerships have helped hundreds of thousands of workers by not trying to be the solution ourselves, but rather by building grounded systems with high potential for positive human rights outcomes, better corporate due diligence, and scalability and sustainability over time.

For more information on our work, do refer to our Slide Deck.

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