International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

Everyone needs to be aware of slavery and know how to fight it

"The right to be free of forced labour is both a fundamental labour right, as well as a human right", says ILO Director-General Guy Ryder in his message for International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

Statement | 02 December 2016
Since its very beginning in 1919, the International Labour Organization has been concerned about the situation of workers subjected to forced labour. The fact that in today’s world there are still children, women and men in slave-like conditions, is an affront to all people and nations everywhere.

The right to be free of forced labour is both a fundamental labour right, as well as a human right. Yet, with 178 countries having ratified the Forced Labour Convention of 1930 and 175 countries having ratified the Abolition of forced labour Convention of 1957, the scourge still exists.

The numbers are staggering: 21 million women, men and children trapped in forced labour around the world, generating USD 150 billion in illicit profits for those who exploit them. Forced labour takes many forms, including commercial sexual exploitation, debt bondage or traditional slavery, and is present in many sectors, such as agriculture, construction, domestic work or fishing.

But there is hope. There is a widespread commitment to end forced labour.

The ILO Forced Labour Protocol that was adopted in 2014 has now entered into force. The Protocol’s provisions on remedies and compensation is a powerful instrument – if used effectively – to provide justice to the many victims of forced labour and make it less profitable to those tempted to use forced labour.

Experience shows that ending slavery and forced labour requires a balanced and integrated approach. This is why the fight against forced labour is closely linked to the combat against child labour, against discrimination and in favour of freedom of association and collective bargaining. These mutually reinforcing fundamental principles and rights at work form part of an integrated approach to realizing the goal of decent work for all.

Under Target 8.7 of the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) world leaders committed to:

"Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.”

The ILO with its global membership – governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations – is fully supporting the achievement of this ambitious target, as well as providing support to Alliance 8.7, the global partnership to achieve SDG Target 8.7. I am confident that by 2030 we will be able to say we have defeated slavery.

Encouragingly, the spotlight on slavery is becoming brighter, illuminating not only the hidden circumstances in which victims are trapped, but highlighting the regional and national frameworks that need to be further strengthened in order to fight this scourge.

We look forward to November 2017 when Argentina will host the Global Conference on Child Labour and Forced Labour, an important milestone on the road towards achieving SDG Target 8.7.

Everyone needs to be aware of slavery and know how to fight it. Find out more by supporting the 50 for Freedom campaign and Alliance 8.7 global partnership.

Together we will succeed.