ILO Calls for a Unified Approach to Combatting Forced Labour

Forced labour must be vigorously tackled by government, business and unions with criminal prosecution for offenders and greater protection for victims.

News | 20 May 2009

ILO (Washington, DC) – Forced labour must be vigorously tackled by government, business and unions with criminal prosecution for offenders and greater protection for victims. This strong message dominated the first US multi-stakeholder meeting with the newly appointed US Ambassador-at-Large for Human Trafficking, Luis C. de Baca.

“I intend to place efforts to combat forced labour at the center of my dealings with foreign governments” stated Ambassador de Baca, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat trafficking in Persons at the US Department of State. “The multi-stakeholder approach advocated by the International Labour Organization (ILO) is the most effective strategy for confronting these modern manifestations of forced labour.”

The panellists, in speaking to a diverse audience at the Georgetown Law Center today, agreed that policies enacted by governments, combined with the efforts of employers and workers with other civil society groups, provided a good model for unified action to combat forced labour and labour exploitation that results from human trafficking.

“Such initiatives, however, are not a substitute for the government agencies responsible for monitoring labour conditions and enforcing standards” said Roger Plant, the ILO’s Head of the Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL).

Based on the findings of the new released ILO’s Global Report on forced labour, entitled “The cost of coercion”, Mr. Plant said that “collaborative efforts, using the technical skills and experience developed by the multi-stakeholder initiatives strengthen the work of the public agencies on matters such as labour inspection and social auditing.”

In regard to the role of investors in combatting forced labour, Alya Kayal, Vice President at The Calvert Group stated that “increased media and public scrutiny around forced and child labour have increased reputational and financial risks” for companies. She stated that investors should address these concerns by “developing and implementing sustainability criteria by which to review companies’ activities and to engage with companies to improve labour standards.”

This event is part of the ILO’s efforts to strengthen a global alliance against forced labour by promoting full, productive and freely chosen employment, and promoting the core labour standards as outlined in the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. This broad alliance is predicated on the understanding that forced labour and labour exploitation outcomes of human trafficking are complex crimes that require a multi-disciplinary approach.

“The laws in the United States recognize civil and criminal offences for a spectrum of labour exploitation” stated Robert Moossy, Director of the Human trafficking Prosecution Unit of the US Department of Justice. “We must always be aware that forced labour often involves subtle forms of coercion, such as psychological manipulation and at the heart of each incident of forced labour are traumatized victims who must be restored to their rightful condition, and whose cooperation in the criminal process is invaluable.”