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02-12-2020 08:53

Message by the Commissioner for Volunteerism and NGOs, Mr Yiannis Yiannaki, on the International Day for the Elimination of Slavery – December 2

December 2nd was established as the International Day for the Elimination of Slavery in 1949, following a decision by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The aim of the Day is to eradicate modern forms of slavery, such as human trafficking, sexual exploitation, child labor, forced marriages and the forced recruitment of children during armed conflict.

Unfortunately, today slavery is not just a historical event. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), more than 40 million people are victims of modern slavery. In addition, almost one in ten children worldwide are forced into child labor, which corresponds to more than 150 million children. In essence, it is an exploitation from which a person cannot escape or refuse due to threats, violence, coercion, deception and/or abuse of power.

In November 2016, the ILO adopted the Protocol on Forced Labor, with the aim of strengthening the global effort to reduce this form of slavery. The Protocol has legal status and can restore hope and freedom for millions of people trapped in modern slavery. But first it must be ratified by the required minimum number of countries around the world.

Slavery was an ancient institution, which turned man into property. Although banned in most countries of the world, the United Nations Human Rights Bodies have found the existence of old forms of slavery, which are still embedded in traditional customs and “beliefs”. These forms of slavery are the result of long-term discrimination against the most vulnerable groups in a society, such as racial minorities and indigenous peoples.

The figures are shocking:

• 40,3 million people are subject to modern slavery, of which 24.9 million in forced labor and 15.4 million in forced marriages.

For every 1,000 people in the world, there are 5.4 victims of modern slavery.

• 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery are children.

• From the 24.9 million people trapped in forced labor, 16 million are exploited in the private sector (domestic work, construction, agriculture), 4.8 million are sexually exploited and 4 million are required to work by state authorities.

• Women and girls are disproportionately affected by forced labor, as they make up 99% of the victims exploited in the pink industry and 58% in other sectors.

Therefore, Civil Society, Non-Governmental Organizations and Governments around the world must step up their efforts to eradicate modern-day slavery. Especially in countries where the problem is intense, it is good to be vigilant and for society not to remain indifferent to the ruthless exploitation of our fellow human beings, to the erosion of their dignity and to the violation of fundamental human rights.