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Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery

Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences

Purpose of the mandate

Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘No one shall be held in slavery or servitude: slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms’.

Slavery was the first human rights issue to arouse wide international concern. Yet it continues today and slavery-like practices also remain a grave and persistent problem.

Contemporary forms of slavery often involve hidden populations, some of whom perform illicit work. Slavery often occurs in isolated areas and access can be challenged or compromised when workers are involved in illegal activities, when they are geographically isolated, or when they work in violent or politically unstable countries or regions.

The majority of those who suffer are the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalised social groups in society. Fear, ignorance of one’s rights and the need to survive do not encourage them to speak out.

About the mandate

The mandate on contemporary forms of slavery includes but is not limited to issues such as: traditional slavery, forced labour, debt bondage, serfdom, children working in slavery or slavery-like conditions, domestic servitude, sexual slavery, and servile forms of marriage. As a legally permitted labour system, traditional slavery has been abolished everywhere, but it has not been completely eradicated. It can persist as a state of mind—among victims and their descendants and among the inheritors of those who practised it—long after it has formally ended.

In order to effectively eradicate slavery in all its forms, the root causes of slavery such as poverty, social exclusion and all forms of discrimination must be addressed. In addition, we need to promote and protect the rights of all especially the most vulnerable in our society. Where human rights violations have already been committed, we are called upon to help restore the dignity of victims.

More about the mandate

Current mandate holder

Photo of Prof. Tomoya Obokata Prof. Tomoya Obokata (Japan) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences in March 2020. He is a scholar of international law and human rights, specializing in transnational organized crime, human trafficking and modern slavery.

View Prof. Tomoya Obokata’s full biography

Contact Information

Prof. Tomoya Obokata
Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations at Geneva
8-14 avenue de la Paix
CH-1211 Geneva 10

Fax: +41 22 917 90 06
E-mail: [email protected] or [email protected]


Former Special Rapporteurs

Ms. Urmila Bhoola

Ms. Gulnara Shahinian