US President in Myanmar

US President in Myanmar: ILO Director-General welcomes joint commitment to implementation of ILO plan to eliminate forced labour

Statement | Geneva | 19 November 2012
The ILO Director-General Guy Ryder has welcomed the commitment by the Presidents of the United States and Myanmar to the implementation of the ILO action plan for the elimination of forced labour in Myanmar. The commitment has been made during President Barack Obama’s visit to Myanmar.

“I warmly welcome the news from Myanmar today that President Thein Sein and President Obama signed an agreement to implement the ILO action plan to eliminate forced labour. We look forward to working with the governments of Myanmar and the United States on the implementation of the plan,” said Guy Ryder.

The Myanmar government’s agreement to end forced labour and to give the workers the right to set up trade unions freely are among the most important changes that the country has seen since President Thein Sein took office in March 2011.

The ILO has been working in Myanmar on forced labour and on freedom of association throughout the complex process of political and economic reform.

Back in 1998 an ILO Commission of Inquiry concluded that the use of forced labour was widespread in the country and made a number of recommendations for changes in legislation and practice. Two years later, the International Labour Conference found that Myanmar was not implementing these recommendations. It then enacted a number of measures, including a request to ILO Member States to review their relations with Myanmar to ensure that their actions could not be used to perpetuate the use of forced labour.

In 2003, the ILO concluded an agreement with the government on placing a Liaison Officer in Myanmar for the specific purpose of combating forced labour.

Following the recent changes in the country, in March this year the Myanmar government and the ILO signed an agreement to eliminate all forms of forced labour by 2015.

In June, the ILO’s International Labour Conference lifted restrictions on the full participation of Myanmar in ILO activities.

Last week, the ILO Governing Body endorsed the framework for ILO technical cooperation activities in Myanmar.

The ILO will support the strengthening of democratic institutions and the rule of law, ensure the full elimination of all forms of forced labour and the full implementation of freedom of association, and help to develop an efficient labour market based on fundamental principles and rights at work.