A tripartite meeting of Southern African Development Community countries has issued a communiqué calling on African nations to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Forced Labour Protocol.
Government, employers’ and workers’ representatives of 11 countries from the Southern African Development Community have called for the immediate ratification of an international treaty designed to eradicate modern slavery. Following a two-day conference in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, delegates to the conference adopted a communiqué, affirming that they ‘stand united in the fight against forced labour and related practices.” The communiqué outlined their determination to “give new impetus to the global fight against forced labour, including trafficking in persons and slavery-like practices” and called for the “immediate ratification of the Forced Labour Protocol.” Nearly 21 million people worldwide, across all continents, are victims of modern-day slavery. In Africa 3.7 million people are affected. They work in agriculture, mines, domestic work and other industries – mainly in the private sector, and many are trafficked into prostitution. The Zambian President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, who opened the conference, committed to champion the ratification at home, as well as the ILO campaign to promote the Protocol, called 50 for Freedom. The campaign aims to mobilise public support and influence the decision of at least 50 countries to ratify the Protocol by 2018. In his opening remarks, the president said: “My country will lead by example in taking the necessary steps required towards ratification of the Protocol. It is shared knowledge that currently our economies are undergoing transformation due to the energy crises, metal price fluctuations and unstable fiscal regimes. These global challenges may send our people into forced labour, as workers are desperate to earn a living.”
A message reinforced by the ILO’s Assistant Director General and Regional Director for Africa, Aeneas Chuma, who underscored the ILO’s social partners’ affirmation that forced labour violates the human dignity of every man, woman and child subjected to it, and that it represents an obstacle to sustainable development and inclusive growth.” The tripartite communiqué will now be taken to the ILO’s upcoming Africa Regional Meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (/afrm2015) to encourage all African countries to ratify and implement the Protocol.