Secretary-General's message on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery
New York, 2 December 2011Despite the considerable efforts of Governments, civil society and the international community, we still live in a world blighted by slavery and slavery-like practices. Millions of human beings are subjected to an existence that is almost unfathomable in its degradation and inhumanity.
Debt bondage, serfdom and forced labour; trafficking in persons and trafficking for the purpose of organ removal; sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, forced marriage, the sale of wives, widow inheritance, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict – these are among the manifestations of slavery today. All are crimes and egregious violations of human rights.
To eradicate contemporary forms of slavery, we need new strategies and measures that can unite all actors. While Governments bear the primary responsibility, the private sector has an integral role to play.
Earlier this year, the Human Rights Council endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, outlining how states and businesses should implement the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework. I welcome the widespread support it has received from the business sector. The corporate responsibility to respect includes ensuring that their activities do not cause or contribute to contemporary forms of slavery in the workplace, and taking steps to stop it from happening in supply chains and elsewhere.
UN.Gift -- the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking that brings together the ILO, OHCHR, UNICEF, UNODC, IOM and the OSCE -- as well as the UN Global Compact corporate sustainability initiative, have also been active in encouraging the private sector to do its part in raising awareness about modern slavery and taking proactive steps to eliminate it.
This year, the UN Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery marks twenty years of helping victims to regain their independence, lives and dignity. The Fund has supported projects that provide vocational training, education, legal advice, medical and psychological assistance. It has also targeted the social factors that can foster slavery. The Fund needs a minimum of $1.5 million to fulfil its mandate, but less than a third of this amount has been secured to date.
On this International Day, I appeal to all governments, business enterprises, NGOs and other partners to demonstrate their commitment to fighting slavery by making a financial contribution to the Fund, and by working closely together to end this scourge.
Statements on 2 December 2011