On 13th of September, the Human Rights Council this afternoon began an interactive dialogue with Urmila Bhoola, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences.
In her presentation, Ms. Bhoola said that the target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goal, which called on the global community to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms, was the historic opportunity to end contemporary forms of slavery. There were 20.9 million victims of forced labour, of which 5.5 million were children, and this situation could not continue unabated. The dignity and wellbeing of millions of people – migrants, women, children, indigenous communities, people with disabilities – who were marginalised and vulnerable were at stake in the current climate of continued exploitation and impunity. Ms. Bhoola also introduced her thematic study on access to justice and remedy, and briefed the Council on her country visit to Paraguay and on the follow-up workshops in Mauritania and Niger.
Speakers noted that contemporary forms of slavery had not been wiped out and were alarmed by the persistence of modern slavery in the 21st century, and said that groups in vulnerable situations such as rural populations or indigenous people must receive special attention from the public authorities. The vulnerability of the millions of migrants to exploitation and transnational trafficking was a concern and greater partnership and coordination of initiatives to combat this phenomenon was urged. Delegations were also concerned about the lack of access to justice for victims of slavery and stressed that the right to remedy was a core tenet of the human rights system. A speaker urged the Special Rapporteur to draw an inspiration from a project run by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the accountability and remedy in cases of business involvement in human rights abuses.
Speaking were the European Union, Tunisia on behalf of the African Group, Holy See, Sierra Leone, Denmark, Russian Federation, France, Brazil, Pakistan, Greece, Sudan, and Belgium.
Philippines, Ukraine, India, Japan, China, Israel, Bahrain, Armenia, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke in a right of reply.
URMILA BHOOLA, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, said that the issue of slavery was receiving increased attention by the Security Council which organized an open debate on the interconnection between slavery, human trafficking and conflict. The target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goal which called on the global community to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms, was the historic opportunity to end contemporary forms of slavery. According to the 2012 report of the International Labour Organization, there were 20.9 million victims of forced labour, of which 5.5 million were children, and this situation could not continue unabated. The dignity and wellbeing of millions of people, migrants, women, children, indigenous communities, people with disabilities who were marginalised and vulnerable were at stake in the current climate of continued exploitation and impunity, stressed the Special Rapporteur and reiterated her call to all members of the international community to increase efforts to combat slavery through the unwavering application of a multifaceted approach at the national, regional and international levels.
Presenting her thematic study on access to justice and remedy, Ms. Bhoola said that slavery involved the most heinous violation of human rights of the most vulnerable people in society today. Ensuring effective access to justice and remedy for victims played not only an essential role in the restitution of their human rights, but also acted as a strong deterrent against future perpetrators. A comprehensive victim-centred and human rights-based approach to ensure that persons subjected to contemporary forms of slavery had access to justice and remedy must have at its centre the compliance of States with their obligations under international law as well as full restitution of the rights of victims. The study offered broad-reaching recommendations to address the identified barriers to access to justice and remedy for victims, including social and cultural barriers, practical barriers, legislative and policy barriers and institutional and procedural barriers.
The report on the visit to Paraguay noted a number of issues of concern, including the phenomenon of cridazgo or child domestic servitude, slavery-like practices including forced begging, and bonded labour including amongst indigenous populations in the Caco region. Nonetheless, there had been positive developments, such as the ratification of core international and regional human rights standards, development of relevant legal provisions and policy frameworks, and the efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. The initial recommendations made to the Government included: setting up of data collection on prevalence of slavery-like practices, reform of the legal framework where necessary, increase of the coverage of the labour inspectorate and awareness raising activities. Briefing the Council on the follow-up workshops in Mauritania and Niger in 2017, the Special Rapporteur said that Mauritania had adopted a new anti-slavery law, developed a road map, established anti-slavery tribunals and conducted poverty reduction programmes. Still, the implementation of the anti-slavery law had been weak and poverty reduction programmes insufficient, so Mauritania should comprehensively and transparently evaluate the implementation of the road map in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In Niger, a plan of action for combating contemporary forms of slavery was in place, focusing on the improvements of political, legal and institutional frameworks; lack of resources was a key obstacle, although the compensation fund had been established for victims of slavery with the support of the European Union. Birth registration of descendants of former slaves had been initiated and livelihood support for victims were included in the plan of action. Niger should adopt measures to address discrimination, ensure education of children, and prosecute religious teachers who exploited children in need. In closing, the Special Rapporteur called upon the States and the international community to increase efforts to combat slavery, noting that the momentum was gained with the Sustainable Development Goals, while Alliance 8.7 provided a platform to address efforts to eradicate slavery and end child labour through creation of decent work opportunities and human development.