Slavery is a fundamental abuse of human rights and a major obstacle to social justice. It is an affront to our humanity and it has no place in the twenty-first century.
And yet 21 million women, men and children are still trapped in forced labour all over the world, generating USD 150 billion in illicit profits for those who exploit them.
There should be no need for the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery to exist.
However, each day, men, women and children are tricked or coerced into abhorrent situations including bonded labour, prostitution and exploitative domestic work.
Global commitment to combating modern slavery has increased but current responses still fall far short of addressing the entirety of the challenge or its root causes.
Ending modern slavery requires strong legislation, strict implementation, joint commitment of countries and social partners, along with effective support systems for the victims.
Effective measures on prevention, protection and access to justice are exactly what the ILO Forced Labour Protocol adopted by our Conference last year addresses.
It’s now time for governments, who overwhelmingly voted for the Protocol, to take on their responsibilities by its ratification and application.
African countries have led the way, with Niger being the first to ratify and countries of the Southern African Development Community all calling for immediate ratification.
Following the second ratification by Norway in November, the Protocol will enter into force in one year’s time.
If fully implemented, the Protocol’s provisions on remedies and compensation will not only provide justice to the many victims of forced labour - through damages and unpaid wages won back from perpetrators, it will also make it less profitable to use forced labour and help to combat unfair competition.
Today we reflect on what we can do better together to achieve our common goal of eliminating modern slavery.
We launched the 50 for freedom campaign as a first step, targeting 50 ratifications of the Protocol by 2018. If we want to achieve social justice we simply have to eliminate forced labour. This is not negotiable.
One of the targets of SDG Goal 8 on promoting Decent Work and inclusive and sustainable growth calls for “immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking”.
To make a real change in the lives of the 21 million men, women and children in forced labour - let’s not just be angry at slavery, let’s make change happen.