Opening Remarks at the Launch of Global Report on Forced Labour: A Global Alliance Against Forced Labour

by Mr Shinichi Hasegawa, Regional Director of ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Statement | Bangkok | 11 May 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for taking the time to come here today.

The report we are presenting to you today is an important one. It sheds light on a dark and unacceptable practice that has no place in the modern world.

The ILO’s report “A Global Against Forced Labour” offers the first estimates by an international organisation of forced labour today, both worldwide and by region. It also gives figures of the number of victims of trafficking and of the profits made by those criminals who exploit trafficked workers. In this region, Asia Pacific, the picture is particularly alarming.

My colleagues will give you a more detailed presentation of the report’s findings in a minute, but first I would like to give you some background.

This report was compiled as part of the Follow-up procedures to the ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. The Declaration was adopted in 1998. It can be seen as a concrete expression of the universal values that the ILO was founded to promote.

Under the Declaration all Member States of the ILO are committed to respect and promote principles and rights in four categories, whether or not they have ratified the relevant Conventions.

These categories are:
- The elimination of forced or compulsory labour
- Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining,
- The abolition of child labour, and
- The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

The Declaration makes it clear that these rights are universal, and that they apply to all peoples in all states - regardless of the level of economic development.

Under the follow-up procedures for the Declaration the ILO produces an annual Global Report on one of the four areas. This year it’s Forced Labour.

These annual reports have a number of purposes. They give a picture of the current situation. They review the actions taken by governments, workers and employers in the four years since the previous report. And they try to chart a way forward.

In the case of forced labour we face a complex challenge. Forced labour is often an invisible crime, fuelled by long-standing patterns of poverty and discrimination. Inadequate regulation, globalizing economies and weak labour inspection can all allow forced labour to spread.

Our message to decision-makers is clear. Abolishing forced labour will be a challenge but it is possible if we face up to the problem. We need clear legislation. We need enforcement of that legislation. And we need a common commitment that forced labour is not acceptable – for cultural, social, economic, or any other reason.

That’s why this report calls for a Global Alliance against Forced Labour, bringing together governments, employers, workers, development agencies, international financial institutions, and civil society groups.

I hope that this report will serve as a call to action. If we are to live in decent societies and see the benefit of economic growth shared fairly, then we must recognise that there is no place for forced labour.