ILO welcomes new momentum for global alliance against forced labour involving employers and workers

A recent international forum against human trafficking has generated new momentum for a global alliance aimed at abolishing forced labour in the next decade, with strong support from employer and labour representatives, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

News | 20 February 2008

GENEVA (ILO News) – A recent international forum against human trafficking has generated new momentum for a global alliance aimed at abolishing forced labour in the next decade, with strong support from employer and labour representatives, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The Vienna Forum Against Human Trafficking, organized by the “UN.GIFT” coalition of six intergovernmental agencies, saw some 1,200 high-level representatives from around the world reach universal agreement on the need to harness international outrage against trafficking and forced labour into an international alliance proposed by the ILO.

“The Vienna Forum has encouraged us to intensify our efforts”, says Roger Plant, Head of the ILO’s Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour. “Governments are increasingly turning to the ILO for guidance for law enforcement officials including labour inspectors, on ways to identify and punish the hidden offence of forced labour. There is a clear momentum to move forward with all our partners, and we accept this challenge.”

Trade Union Congress delegate Simon Steyne noted that “trade unions were already committed to organizing in the formal and informal economy to demand full rights for migrant workers and women workers everywhere. Governments must ensure we can do that by protecting and not violating our rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining”.

Brent Wilton, Deputy Secretary-General of the International Organization of Employers, highlighted the “crucial partnership of the ILO in sustaining a global alliance against forced labour and trafficking”, adding, “national employers’ organizations have a unique place and can play a unique role to bring a broad coalition of the private sector to this fight. For attendees of the Vienna Forum looking to engage with the business sector, they already have a partner to do that: that is the ILO and, within it, the Programme to Combat Forced Labour. The ILO is where these issues impact the world of work”.

According to the ILO, at least 2.4 million women, children and men are trafficked into severe forms of labour and sexual exploitation in destination countries, in mainstream industries as well as the informal economy, generating an estimated US$32 billion in annual profits.

The ILO organized well attended sessions on supply chain management, the demand for forced labour and sexual exploitation, and the roles of employers’ organizations, businesses and trade unions in combating trafficking, where participants discussed measures to prevent human trafficking.

Effective action against human trafficking requires an equal focus on prevention, good law and policy, strong law enforcement and rehabilitation. It needs coordinated action in sender and destination countries. It needs action at the boardroom, at the shop floor, the local village, the higher echelons of government, and courtrooms. With its unique social networks, and in partnership with others, the ILO has a critical role to play in global efforts to eradicate forced labour and modern slavery once and for all.