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International Labour Organization: Forced Labor Protocol to Come into Effect Next Year

(Dec. 3, 2015) The Protocol to the Forced Labor Convention, first adopted at a conference held by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2014, will come into effect on November 9, 2016. That date is 12 months after the protocol received its second ratification, from Norway, following a prior ratification by Niger.  (Norway Ratification Clinches Landmark ILO Forced Labour Protocol, ILO website (Nov. 18, 2015).)

The Protocol contains a framework to fight forced labor and slavery. According to the Director-General of the ILO, Guy Ryder, “Norway’s ratification will help millions of children, women and men reclaim their freedom and dignity.  It represents a strong call to other member States to renew their commitment to protect forced labourers, where ever they may be.”  (Id.; PO29 – Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (June 11, 2014), NORMLEX.)

Key Provisions of the Protocol

The Protocol is considered to be a means of updating the Convention CO29 of 1930 on forced labor. (Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour (in force from May 1, 1932), NORMLEX; New at the ILO: Updates to the Forced Labour Convention, U.S. Department of State website (July 27, 2015).) The Protocol calls on participating countries to

take effective measures to prevent and eliminate [forced labor’s] … use, to provide to victims protection and access to appropriate and effective remedies, such as compensation, and to sanction the perpetrators of forced or compulsory labour [and]

… develop a national policy and plan of action for the effective and sustained suppression of forced or compulsory labour in consultation with employers’ and workers’ organizations … . (Protocol of 2014, art. 1.)

The Protocol lists the measures to be taken to prevent forced labor, including educating potential victims and employers; insuring that relevant legislation is enforced and that offices responsible for that work are strengthened; protecting laborers, especially migrant workers, from abusive recruitment and placement practices; supporting due diligence by private and public sectors to prevent forced labor; and addressing the root causes that increase vulnerability to forced labor. (Id. art. 2.)

Victims of forced labor are to be identified, released, and given effective assistance for their recovery and rehabilitation; they are not to be penalized for their involvement in any unlawful actions they were forced to take. (Id. arts. 3 & 4.)

Forced Labor Statistics

According to ILO estimates, there are at present 21 million people subject to forced labor world-wide; their work generates about US$150 billion in profits across many economic sectors, including agriculture, fishing, domestic service, construction, manufacturing, and mining. Furthermore, women and girls may be exploited in commercial sex businesses.  The profits from these forms of modern slavery are higher in the developed than in the developing world.  (Norway Ratification Clinches Landmark ILO Forced Labour Protocol, supra.)  Fifty-six percent of those trapped in forced labor are in the Asia-Pacific region, 18% are in Africa, and 9% are in Latin America, with the rest found in North America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe.  (Statistics and Indicators on Forced Labour and Trafficking, ILO website (last visited Nov. 25, 2015).)