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Modern slavery: New International Agreement on Forced Labour

Modern slavery: UN rights experts welcome new international agreement on forced labour

13 June 2014

A group of United Nations independent experts on slavery, migrants, trafficking, sale and sexual exploitation of children, and internally displaced persons today welcomed this week’s adoption of a legally binding international Protocol to tackle forced labour worldwide and end what they call ‘modern slavery.’

The agreement agreement, adopted on Wednesday by the annual conference of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), is an additional protocol to ILO Convention 29 on forced labour from 1930.

According to the experts, it addresses existing gaps and strengthens the body of instruments on forced labour, including child labour, trafficking in persons, slavery and slavery-like practices and related human rights violations.

“An international legally binding protocol is essential to fight forced labour and hold perpetrators accountable, so its immediate implementation will be crucial,” the human rights experts said in a news release, noting that the agreement will enter into force after its second ratification by a UN Member State.

The expert’s praised the protocol’s inclusion of measures to advance prevention, protection and remedies against forced labour, as well as to enforce national laws and strengthen international cooperation from gender and child-sensitive approaches.

“Now we call on States to ratify the Protocol and ensure its full implementation,” they added

There are currently an estimated 21 million forced labour victims worldwide. A recent ILO report estimates that $150 billion in illegal profits are made in the private economy each year through modern forms of slavery.

According to ILO, more than half of the victims of forced labour are women and girls, primarily in domestic work and commercial sexual exploitation, while men and boys were primarily in forced economic exploitation in agriculture, construction, and mining.

The independent, unpaid experts reporting to the UN Human Rights Council, who issued today’s statement, are: the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and its consequences, Urmila Bhoola; and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau;

The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo; the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Maud De Boer-Buquicchio; and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani also signed onto the statement.


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