The United Nations estimates that there are more than 18 million people kept as slave labourers. Each day, women are trafficked, sold and locked in brothels. Every day, young girls are forcibly married, sexually abused or exploited as domestic workers. Twenty-five years after the adoption of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, boys and girls are still working in appalling conditions. Men, separated from their families, are still being locked in clandestine factories, working in situations of bonded labour with negligible wages and remote chances of ever repaying their debts.
In the 19th century, the international community came together to declare slavery an affront to our common humanity. Today, governments, civil society and the private sector must unite to eradicate all contemporary forms of slavery, including forced labour.
There are grounds for optimism. The life-long campaigner against child-bonded labour, Kailash Satyarthi, is this year’s co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, helping to raise awareness of the issue. The recent End Child Slavery week has focused global attention on this continuing abuse of human rights. This year’s first observance of the World Day Against Trafficking (July 30), as well as the strengthening of international law on forced labour, has re-enforced the determination of many to banish these barbaric practices.
But much more needs to be done.
I urge Member States, businesses, foundations and other donors to support the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery so that civil society can carry out essential projects for the rehabilitation and redress of victims. We also need clear-sighted strategies, strong national legislation and a commitment to coordinate the fight against this crime. I urge all States to ratify and implement the relevant instruments of international law -- in particular the new Protocol drawn up by the International Labour Organisation, which is designed to strengthen global efforts to eliminate forced labour.
Together, let us do our utmost for the millions of victims throughout the world who are held in slavery and deprived of their human rights and dignity.