World closer to ending modern slavery as UN-backed protocol on forced labour comes into force

10 November 2016 – An international protocol on forced labour has entered into force, a major milestone in the fight to end the practice, which the United Nations labour agency estimates victimizes 21 million people worldwide.

The International Labour Organization Forced Labour Protocol “requires countries to take effective measures to prevent and eliminate forced labour, and to protect and provide access to justice for victims,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder in a joint statement with the heads of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

According to a news release from ILO, the Protocol, adopted by the International Labour Conference in 2014, entered into force yesterday, a year after it gained its second ratification.

It means that all countries that have ratified – Niger, Norway, United Kingdom, Mauritania, Mali, France, Czech Republic, Panama and Argentina – now have to meet the obligations outlined in the Protocol.

Argentina signified their commitment to ending modern slavery by becoming the ninth country to ratify the Protocol. Argentina will also host the upcoming IV Global Conference on child labour and forced labour in November 2017 in Buenos Aires.

An estimated 21 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour. They include farm workers, migrants, domestic workers, seafarers, women and girls forced into prostitution and others who are also abused, exploited and paid little or nothing.

The ILO estimates that forced labour generates $150 billion in illegal profits every year.

“We all have a role to play, and if we join forces, the end of forced labour is within reach,” said IOE Secretary-General, Linda Kromjong.

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation stressed the legally binding nature of the Protocol. “That means the more governments that ratify and ensure it is implemented, the closer we’ll be to eliminating slavery once and for all,” she said.

The ILO, together with the ITUC and IOE, is leading the 50 for Freedom campaign with the aim of raising awareness about the issue and encouraging at least 50 countries to ratify the Protocol by 2018.