|Greg Vines, ILO Deputy Director-General
According to the ILO’s most recent estimates, about 21 million men, women and children today are coerced into various forms of forced labour. Over 1.5 million of these are in the Developed Economies and the European Union. The vast majority (90 per cent) are exploited by private individuals or businesses operating outside the rule of law, and the remainder by the State. While women and girls are generally more susceptible, men and boys in fact account for 45 per cent of the total.
This exploitation of human beings takes many diverse forms, as reflected in the public exhibition’s different presentations. It can involve the abuse of domestic workers in private households, the bonded labour of workers in brick kilns, organized criminal groups who traffic in organs and the deceptive recruitment of migrant workers in a wide range of sectors, such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing.
The scale and diverse nature of the problem calls for comprehensive solutions: strict punishment of those who benefit from exploitation must be complemented by strong preventive measures, including measures to strengthen labour law and to provide access to skills, information and training, as well as improved victim care and compensation.
At the international level, there exist a number of legal instruments that together call for the elimination of the very worst forms of human exploitation, including slavery, servitude, forced labour and trafficking in persons. The principles enshrined these instruments remain vitally important today.
As the discussions during the panel debate this morning demonstrate, however, there is a need to ensure that States are provided with clarity regarding their obligations under the international legal framework. This framework has real-world, practical implications. International law should serve to provide States with clear guidance regarding the need to combat the diverse forms of human exploitation that exist today—and to ensure that no person is left unprotected.
The challenges posed by the complex nature and immense scale of human exploitation highlight the need for all stakeholders actively to work together towards its elimination. The event today provides an excellent example in this regard.
Together with the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the Geneva-based UN organisations of the ILO, IOM, OHCHR and UNCHR collaborated together to prepare this launch of Swiss Anti-Human Trafficking Week. Recognising our common goal to fighting human trafficking and human exploitation worldwide, the Geneva-based UN agencies must continue to work together in the future to promote better coordination on these important issues and a coherent strategy that brings together our complementary approaches.