Secretary-General's Message on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (2 December 2016)

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery calls upon us to remember victims around the world and to reflect on progress towards the elimination of all contemporary forms of slavery, such as forced labour, the worst forms of child labour, forced and servile marriage, bonded labour and human trafficking.

This year’s observance coincides with the 90th anniversary of the 1926 Slavery Convention, and the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave trade and Institutions and Practices similar to slavery.

We can draw some encouragement from decreases in the number of children engaged in the worst forms of child labour, the expansion of comprehensive legal and policy frameworks to tackle contemporary slavery and trafficking, and growing public awareness of the issue.

However, according to estimates by the International Labour Organisation, almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour, trapped in situations of extreme exploitation, abuse and violence, including sexual and gender-based violence. Those suffering multiple forms of discrimination, including women, children, indigenous peoples, minorities, people of African descent, and persons with disabilities, all too often face extreme vulnerability to exploitation and abuse.

Current increases in the criminalization of migration have heightened the vulnerabilities of millions of people fleeing conflict, persecution, crisis situations and extreme poverty, who can easily fall prey to traffickers and others who profit from their desperation.  

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls on the global community to “take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms”. 

Achieving this goal is not only a matter of prohibiting slavery in law throughout the world but also fighting its root causes, expanding access to justice for victims  and increasing provisions for rehabilitation.  

The UN Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery helps restore the human rights and dignity of thousands of victims and their families by awarding grants to projects providing rehabilitation services. I urge Member States, businesses, private foundation and other donors to increase their contributions.

Together, we can accelerate our efforts and rid the world of this heinous practice.