World closer to ending modern slavery, agency says

With an international protocol on forced labor coming into force, the United Nations labor agency, the International Labor Organization, says the world is closer in ending modern slavery.

The agency said the attainment of the protocol is a major milestone in the fight to end modern slavery, which is estimated to victimize 21 million people worldwide.

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

The Protocol, adopted by the International Labor Conference in 2014, entered into force this week, a year after it gained its second ratification, the agency said.

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.

It said 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 labor and forced labor in November 2017 in the capital Buenos Aires.

The agency said victims of forced labor worldwide include farm workers, migrants, domestic workers, seafarers, women and girls forced into prostitution, “and others who are also abused, illegal, exploited and paid little or nothing.”

The group estimates that forced labor illegally generates $150 billion annually.

“We all have a role to play, and if we join forces, the end of forced labor 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 U.N. said the group of organizations is leading the “50 for Freedom campaign,” with the aim of raising awareness and encouraging at least 50 countries to ratify the Protocol by 2018.

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