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For Sunday 2 December, International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

Slavery persists all around the world and children account for a quarter of the victims, warns UN Voluntary Fund

GENEVA - “Slavery persists in all regions of the world and has acquired new and complex forms,” the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery on the International Day for the Abolition said this week.

According to a recent study by the International Labour Organization, nearly 21 million women, children and men are forced into bonded labour, held as slaves for ritual or religious purposes, or trafficked within their countries or across borders, often to be sold into prostitution. Children account for more than a quarter of the victims. This lucrative trafficking in human beings yields about $32 billion to traffickers every year.

Slavery is a complex and global phenomenon. Its elimination requires addressing the root causes, including poverty, class polarization, racial discrimination, gender inequalities, exclusion and/or illiteracy.

As the United Nations Secretary-General has said, everyone has a role to play in this global fight. While governments bear the primary responsibility for eradicating contemporary forms of slavery, it is also vital that business actors ensure that slavery practices do not occur in their workplace and supply chains.

Next week, the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund will hold its annual meeting to allocate small grants to organizations - including grassroots groups in remote areas - which assist victims of contemporary forms of slavery.

The Fund, established by the General Assembly in 1991 and administered by the Secretary-General through the Office of the High Commissioner, is a unique victim-oriented and cost-effective mechanism striving to achieve concrete impact on the ground. Over the past 21 years, the Fund has supported over 460 projects in 95 countries to assist tens of thousands of victims, helping them to break free and recover their lives. These projects include the establishment of rescue centers for children and women victims of forced marriages, vocational training for forced and bonded laborers, and family reunification and re-integration support for victims of trafficking.

While grateful for the financial contributions already received, the Fund is calling for more financial support to respond to increasing requests for assistance, echoing the Secretary-General’s appeal to states and private donors to further contribute to the Fund.

For additional information and media requests, please contact Laura Dolci-Kanaan (+41 22 917 9732) or write to slaveryfund@ohchr.org