Date of Meeting: 02 Dec 2015

Meeting Organizer: Permanent Mission of Liechenstein, United Nations University, The Freedom Fund

ISJC Staff Present: Lt. Col. Eirwen Pallant, Cpt. Kathy Crombie, Luke Cozens

Reporter: Luke Cozens

Which SDG does this topic cover? 8

Type of meeting: Side event on the occasion of the International day for the Abolition of Slavery

Brief summary of presentation of information made

  • H.E. Mr Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to the United Nations welcomed the group and noted that slavery is universally acknowledged as illegal but that millions of people were still enslaved. He highlighted the importance of SDG 8.7 as a goal to eradicate all forms of slavery.
  • [SDG 8.7 “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”]
  • Dr James Cockayne, Head of Office at the UN, UN University noted the 1815 Universal Abolition of the Slave Trade in Vienna and the 2009 UN convention on trafficking. He repeated H.E. Weneaweser’s comment that while slavery is illegal everywhere with no exception 20.9-35.8 million people are estimated to be enslaved 5.5 million of which are children. He also highlighted the acts of ISIS which has approximately 3000 slaves and organizes slave markets and even instruction manuals. Dr Cockayne then introduced the report “Unshackling Development: Why we need a global partnership to end modern slavery” (Cockayne, 2015) and its companion report “Fighting Modern Slavery: What role for international criminal justice?” (Cockayne and Panaccione, 2015) which provide recommendations for the international community on how to tackle modern slavery including, in this case, forced labour and trafficking. He suggested that most of the tools necessary to end slavery were in place but that the current need was for multilateral coordination. He suggested that current “siloes” of Forced Labor, Human Rights and Trafficking  offered limited political leadership and that a combined effort, including the support of civil society, is necessary to end modern slavery. He gave specific recommendations for a General Assembly resolution on slavery building of the resolution on trafficking, further use of the1956 ECOSOC mandate to consider national anti-slavery efforts and an open debate in the Security Council. He particularly recommended that member states invite the Secretary General to appoint a time-bound Special Envoy for slavery.
  • Mr Nick Grono, CEO, The Freedom Fund said that while forced labour generates $150 billion a year it creates massive costs to the world. He introduced The Freedom Fund as an organization that supports NGOs in countries with a high prevalence of forced labour. He gave an example of the brick kiln industry where slavery carries not only an individual cost but a cost to the community as slaves and slave owners pay no tax, slavery drives down wages and encourages corruption and brick kilns often create great health costs. He gave a similar example of slavery within the Thai Seafood industry which holds slaves in terrible conditions and encourages corruption and ocean damage while delivering products to Europe and the United States. He concluded that slavery is not just a horrendous human rights abuse but also a huge cost to economic development. He suggested the need for a modern abolitionist movement and said that only by better enforcement would we have any chance of securing the required lifestyle change.
  • H.E. Ms Lourdes O. Yparraguire, Permanent Representative of The Philippines to the United Nations described the scale of Filipino overseas work with 9.7 million Filipinos working overseas on virtually every country and ocean-going vessel. She explained the “protection mantle” of Filipino policy for overseas workers through pre-employment, transit, employment and reintegration and said that such workers were considered active agents of development. H.E. Yparraguire also highlighted the General Assembly’s 2010 global plan of action against Trafficking in Persons while noting that the invisible nature of this crime makes it difficult to save victims and prosecute criminals.
  • H.E. Ms Katalin Annamária Bogyay, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the United Nations highlighted that no country was immune to modern slavery. She explained that false promises of overseas work and resulting bonded labour is common in Hungary and that those in extreme poverty were particularly vulnerable. She suggested that people can feel slavery in the clothes we wear and the mobile phones we carry with us. H.E. Bogyay recapitulated the urgency of ending extreme poverty and gave support to the idea of a Special Envoy.  She also focused on the slavery of women and children by terrorist groups such as ISIL or Boko Haram.
  • H.E. Dr Sarah Mendelson, Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations Economic and Social Council said there was a need for “a network of networks” and that those wishing to combat slavery needed to be better networked than the criminals. She suggested that this was an issue of development impacting not only SDG 8.7 but also 5.2, 16.2 and 16.9 meaning that there was no need for re-litigation but a need to take action on current litigation. H.E. Medelson highlighted the need for more and better data, particularly around the SDGs and the need to retain focus on trafficking and the specific vulnerability of refugees.
  • Ms Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court provided a written statement commending the reports, highlighting the historic and global scale of slavery and the precedent for international legal action against slavery.
  • Ms Urmila Bhoola, UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery said that mobilization has to be comparable in size to the issue and notes that the SDGs cannot be achieved without ending slavery. She recapitulated that this was not a “radical re-invention of the wheel” but a bringing together of the wheels already in place. She noted the basis of anti-slavery work in fundamental human rights and said that slavery “calls into question our very essence as humanity”.
  • Mr Kevin Kassidy, International Labour Organisation said that slavery was a major obstacle to social justice and that the ILO worked against it through research and knowledge management, removal of trafficking from value systems, and country based initiatives. He highlighted the need to form partnerships around coordinated work rather than money and mentioned the ILO data initiative the 50 for freedom website and the fair recruitment initiative.
  • Comments from the floor included the UK speaking on its recent modern slavery act and the need for national action, reservations from UNOCD, Belarus and the Russian Federation regarding the equation of trafficking with slavery which Dr Cockayne said were problems only with an earlier report, and comments on the need for data, financing, expertise, criminality and leadership. It was noted that proportional to the global population, levels of slavery are the lowest they have ever been.

What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

  • The size and scope of this issue that affects people in every country and internationally.

  • Modern slavery includes bonded labour, domestic servitude and sexual slavery. It is closely linked to human trafficking.

  • Modern slavery affects not just the individuals but families and communities, and prevents development.

  • The world as a global village means that how Salvationists act in one part of the world can affect others in very distant places. This is particularly relevant to what we buy in regard to this specific issue. 

Web links for more information

Tags: United Nations, SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth