Bimbola Oyesola, [email protected]
Fifty countries have shown their commitment to eradicate contemporary forms of slavery by ratifying the International Labour Organization (N.29) (ILO) Forced Labour Protocol.
The ratifications have met an initial target set by the 50 for Freedom campaign, which urges governments to take action on forced labour. Sudan became the 50th country to ratify. The milestone was met with Sudan’s ratification of the treaty on March 17.
The international treaty commits governments to take effective measures to prevent forced labour, protect its victims and ensure their access to justice and remedies, including compensation.
“We reached a major milestone,” said Guy Ryder, director-general of the International Labour Organization. “A future of work that is free of forced labour, human trafficking, child labour and modern slavery is a future that we must shape together. Because forced labour has no place in the better normal we want to start building as of today.”
ILO constituents overwhelmingly adopted the Forced Labour Protocol 29 during the 2014 International Labour Conference.
“We reached a major milestone. A future of work that is free of forced labour, human trafficking, child labour and modern slavery is a future that we must shape together,” said Ryder.
The ILO, together with the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), launched the 50 for Freedom campaign to encourage governments to ratify the Protocol and to raise awareness about the existence of modern day slavery.
Nearly 60,000 people from all over the world have joined the campaign so far, supporting the call for ratification and implementation of the Protocol. A number of partners from the public and private sector, social partners, civil society organizations as well as several celebrities also support the campaign.
“Fifty ratifications is worth celebrating but we need many more,” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC secretary-general.
Forced labour affects all population groups, every region of the world and every economic sector.
According to the latest global estimates, there are still 25 million men, women and children trapped in forced labour – trafficked, held in debt bondage, or working under slavery-like conditions. That number has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the most vulnerable workers, most of whom do not have access to social protection.
However, the ILO has said ratification by itself is not enough, noting that implementation is vital if people’s lives are to change for the better.
“This will require a global and joint effort, including from the private sector. “A clear and active commitment is needed from all companies to eradicate forced labour,” said Roberto Suarez-Santos, IOE secretary-general.
With less than 10 years remaining to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 of eradicating forced labour, countries need to make more efforts to implement the Protocol.
“If we are to achieve Target 8.7 of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we must follow up with careful implementation in every region, every country, every village, and make sure that no one is left behind,” said the ILO director-general.
A signing ceremony to mark Sudan’s ratification of the Protocol will be held on March 26, 2021.