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Financial Crisis Could Drive People Into Slavery

Ban Warns That Financial Crisis Could Drive More People Into Slavery-Like Conditions

New York, Dec 2 2008 9:10AM

Slavery was formally abolished two centuries ago, but some 27 million people are still victims of the scourge, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, warning that the current global economic turmoil could aggravate the situation.

“Poor people are likely to be driven further into poverty, making them more vulnerable to slavery-like practices,” he said in a message on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

“Those who consciously exploit them will have to extract even more to profit, and consumers who may not be aware of the consequences will be more likely to purchase products whose labour costs are kept unreasonably low.”

Mr. Ban called on governments, civil society, the private sector and individuals to join the fight against slavery, protect victims and raise awareness of the issue.

“We need new strategies to deal with this old curse,” he said. “We need to change laws, and we need to alter attitudes and customs.”

The Secretary-General pointed out that with the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights just around the corner, one of its key principles – that “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude” – must be made a reality.

The United Nations independent expert on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences also decried the practice, noting that in spite of positive steps made in addressing slavery, “these efforts seem to be insufficient.”

Special Rapporteur Gulnara Shahinian, who has been serving in the capacity since this May, said that recent cases of governments’ failures to protect their citizens from the scourge highlight the need to acknowledge that traditional forms of slavery still exist.

“Stronger political will from governments is needed to introduce respective changes in national legislation, enforce the laws and develop sustainable programmes that would include education for law enforcement officials, fight corruption, and provide economic opportunities and, where necessary, compensation or rehabilitation for those who have suffered from slavery, she said.

ENDS

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