On the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, the ITUC calls on governments to step up action

Today marks the international day for the abolition of slavery, marking the date of the adoption of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, in 1949.

Today, the estimates of workers in contemporary forms of slavery have never been higher. With a minimum of 21 million globally, affecting virtually all sectors and all countries, convictions remain very low and preventive measures ineffective.

The 21 million modern slaves represent the tip of the iceberg in two senses. First, forced labour is hidden and hard to find, so many more remain unidentified, especially considering the non-existant or defunct labour inspectorate in many countries. Secondly, the increasing numbers of workers in modern slavery are an effect of decades of labour market deregulation which has left workers unprotected in the global economy. With at least 21 million people trapped in slavery, many more are facing other forms of labour exploitation, making them in turn most likely to become tomorrow’s forced labourers. Slavery exists today in global supply chains, and governments need to take responsibility for strong legislation and enforcement, due diligence and the rule of law within their countries and in the value chains of multinational companies based in or operating in their countries.

In 2014, governments again adopted a global treaty, the ILO Forced Labour Protocol, to step up prevention, protection and compensation measures. Despite the compelling figures and overwhelming support from the international community for the adoption of the Protocol, Norway and Niger are to date the only countries which have ratified it, translating their international promise into national commitment.

On this International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, take a minute to urge your government to ratify the protocol and end modern slavery.