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Labour standards

ILO adopts new Protocol to tackle modern forms of forced labour

A new legally binding ILO Protocol on Forced Labour aims to advance prevention, protection and compensation measures, as well as to intensify efforts to eliminate contemporary forms of slavery.

Press release | 11 June 2014
GENEVA – The International Labour Organization (ILO) has adopted a new legally binding Protocol designed to strengthen global efforts to eliminate forced labour.

The Protocol, supported by a Recommendation, was adopted by government, employer and worker delegates to the International Labour Conference (ILC) with 437 votes for 27 abstentions and 8 against.

The new Protocol brings the existing ILO Convention 29 on Forced Labour, adopted in 1930, into the modern era to address practices such as human trafficking. The accompanying Recommendation provides technical guidance on its implementation.

“The Protocol and Recommendation mark a major step forward in the fight against forced labour and represent a firm commitment among governments, employer and worker organizations to eliminate contemporary forms of slavery,” Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General said.

Forced labour violates the human rights and dignity of millions of women and men, girls and boys."
ILO Director-General
“Forced labour violates the human rights and dignity of millions of women and men, girls and boys. It contributes to the perpetuation of poverty and stands in the way of the achievement of decent work for all,” he added.

There are currently an estimated 21 million forced labour victims worldwide. A recent ILO report estimates that US$ 150 billion in illegal profits are made in the private economy each year through modern forms of slavery.

New obligations to prevent forced labour

The Protocol strengthens the international legal framework by creating new obligations to prevent forced labour, to protect victims and to provide access to remedy, such as compensation for material and physical harm.

It requires governments to take measures to better protect workers, in particular migrant labourers, from fraudulent and abusive recruitment practices and emphasizes the role of employers and workers in the fight against forced labour.

“The new instruments will complement and strengthen existing international law, in particular the UN Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children,” said David Garner, President of the ILC Committee on Forced Labour and Australian Government representative.

The ILC Committee had to decide whether to push for a legally binding Protocol supported by a Recommendation or a Recommendation on its own.

The need for a legally binding instrument

Government, employer and worker Committee members emphasized the vital role played by the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105) but concluded that gaps in their implementation called for additional measures.

The Committee agreed on the need for a legally binding instrument that establishes a common framework for the 177 ILO member states that have ratified Convention 29 – as well as the 8 countries that have not – to move towards the elimination of forced labour.

“The Protocol and Recommendation represent a call to action. They go beyond pious words; they are more than text on a piece of paper,” Ed Potter, Committee Employer Vice Chair said.

“This is a humanitarian moment, a human rights moment, and represents what the international business community stands for – respect for human rights,” he added.

More than half of the victims of forced labour are women and girls, primarily in domestic work and commercial sexual exploitation, while men and boys were primarily in forced economic exploitation in agriculture, construction, and mining.

“By adopting this Protocol, we have sent a clear signal of our commitment to the 21 million victims of forced labour around the world. We have also shown the capacity of the ILO to modernize, and adapt one of its most symbolic conventions to the realities of today,” said Committee Worker Vice Chair, Yves Veyrier.

For information please contact the ILO Department of Communication at or +4122/799-7912.