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Greater accountability needed to eradicate rampant modern-day slavery For the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

GENEVA (1 December 2014) – “Millions of people throughout the world, including children, are faced with persistent violations of their fundamental human rights. They are subjected to modern-day slavery, with insufficient political will and resources dedicated to lifting them out of such abhorrent conditions,” UN human rights experts* today warned.

Ahead of the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, they called for concerted efforts to combat all contemporary forms of slavery and emphasized the need for effective implementation of laws and policies.

“At least 20.9 million people are subjected to contemporary forms of slavery, with women and girls being the majority,” said Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, citing the 2012 International Labour Organisation estimates on the number of people in forced labour, trafficked for labour and sexual exploitation or held in slavery-like conditions.

“A further 168 million children are involved in child labour, with more than half of these doing hazardous work, posing a danger to their physical, emotional and moral well-being, including in slavery-like conditions in artisanal mines and quarries.”

“The eradication of contemporary forms of slavery requires intensified advocacy, greater political will and above all, increased States’ compliance with their obligations under international human rights law,” Bhoola added.

The experts stressed that the fight against contemporary forms of slavery requires renewed energy and commitment from all stakeholders - global and domestic, State and non-State, at the institutional and individual level. It also necessitates addressing the underlying factors that push people, including children, into slavery, such as poverty, conflict and violence, lack of access to education and to decent work and opportunities for socio-economic empowerment.

“Millions of children worldwide have their childhood stolen as victims of forced labour and sexual exploitation,” said the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio. “In order to combat this scourge, we need to tackle the broader environment by adopting and strengthening comprehensive child protection systems, capable of reducing risk factors and ensuring the early identification of child victims.”

“Women, men and children who are victims of trafficking must have access to justice and remedies including compensation, irrespective of their migration or other status,” said Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children. Giammarinaro underlined the need for assistance and support measures to ensure opportunities for social inclusion, in cooperation with civil society organisations, including non-governmental organisations and trade unions.

Addressing the prevalence of contemporary forms of slavery also requires that private sector actors, and particularly transnational corporations doing business with suppliers in developing countries, ensure transparency in their supply chains to eliminate forced labour, bonded labour or other forms of slavery, the experts said.

“States must carry out due diligence to ensure compliance with their human rights obligations,” Bhoola stressed. “Eradicating slavery in the informal economy and forced labour that is imposed by governments also remain important challenges.”

The experts emphasized that in negotiations towards the adoption of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, clear goals and targets must be set out to end poverty in all its forms, to eradicate all forms of slavery and slavery-like practices, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation, worst forms of child labour and forced labour.


(*) The experts:
Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences
Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery marks the date of the adoption, by the General Assembly, of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (resolution 317(IV) of 2 December 1949).

Contemporary forms of slavery include traditional slavery, forced labour, bonded labour or debt bondage, domestic servitude, forced and child marriage, sexual slavery, sale of wives, widow inheritance, worst forms of child labour, and serfdom. Trafficking in persons is another form of slavery which is primarily manifested in the area of exploitation for forced labour and sexual exploitation, but also for slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. Trafficking and slavery are often linked to the sale of children for the purposes of child labour and sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution.

The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

For further information and media inquiries, please contact Ms. Janja Sinkovič (+41 22 928 9356 / jsinkovic@ohchr.org) or write to srslavery@ohchr.org

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