Niger has become the first country to ratify the ILO's Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention.
Speaking today at a signing ceremony during the 104th session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Niger’s Minister of Employment, Labour and Social Security, Salissou Ada, said it was a historic moment.
“This has great significance for Niger. This reflects the firm commitment of the President of the Republic of Niger, his exellency Mahamadou Issoufou, who has made the fight against this scourge, against this social evil, his priority.”
The Protocol adds new impetus to the global fight against forced labour, including trafficking in persons and slavery-like practices. Director-General of the International Labour Organization Guy Ryder welcomed Niger’s ratification.
“This is ladies and gentlemen a historic moment because this is the first ever ratification of the protocol which was approved by this conference last year. This is the protocol of the Convention on Forced Labour of 1930.”
The ILO estimates that 21 million people are victims of forced labour, generating illicit profits of about $150 billion dollars a year.
Victims of forced labour are exploited in agriculture, fishing, domestic work, construction, manufacturing, mining and other economic activities. Women and girls, in particular, are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation. Niger ratified the Forced Labour Convention in 1961, after becoming independent in 1960.
In 2002, Niger adopted legislation to outlaw slavery, with provision for strong penalties for anyone convicted of holding slaves. However, a survey conducted in 2008 by the national Statistics Institute of Niger and the ILO found that more than 59,000 adults and children – out of a total population of 13 million - are victims of forced labour. This is mostly related to vestiges of slavery and deeply- rooted practices of discrimination.
A global campaign at the end of the ILC will be launched to encourage at least 50 countries to ratify the Forced Labour Protocol by 2018.
To enter into force, the Protocol needs ratification by two ILO member States.
Reporting for the ILO in Geneva at the Palais des Nations, this is Carla Drysdale.