The International Labour Organization

In June 1998 the International Labour Conference adopted a Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up that obligates member States to respect, promote and realize freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour, the effective abolition of child labour, and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The Programme on Promoting the Declaration is responsible for the reporting processes and technical cooperation activities associated with the Declaration; and it carries out awareness raising, advocacy and knowledge functions.

In November 2001, following the publication of the first Global Report on forced labour, the ILO Governing Body created a Special Action Programme to combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL), as part of broader efforts to promote the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work and its Follow-up. Since its inception, SAP-FL has been concerned to raise global awareness of forced labour in its different forms, as a necessary prerequisite for effective action against it. Several thematic and country-specific studies and surveys have since been undertaken, on such diverse aspects of forced labour as bonded labour, human trafficking, forced domestic work, rural servitude, and forced prison labour.

The Special Action Programme to combat Forced Labour (SAP-FL) has spearheaded the ILO's work in this field since early 2002. The programme has successfully:

  • Raised global awareness and understanding of modern forced labour
  • Assisted governments to develop and implement new laws, policies and action plans
  • Developed and disseminated guidance and training materials on key aspects of forced labour and trafficking
  • Implemented innovative programmes which combine policy development, capacity building of law enforcement and labour market institutions, and targeted, field-based projects of direct support for both prevention of forced labour and identification and rehabilitation of its victims.

Case example from ILO

Panlop recounts her painful ordeal of being tricked into slave-like work abroad after dropping out of school in a remote village in northern Thailand. Now that she has returned home, she is determined to help other girls and young women avoid making the same terrible mistake. By speaking out publicly and discussing her experience with at-risk youth, she helps them stand up for themselves and make their needs known to local government administrators.

Improving the understanding and awareness of the mechanisms behind trafficking that ensnare girls like Panlop empowers and mobilizes young people and their communities. It helps better target preventive efforts: children at high risk take up scholarships, enroll in school, undergo training, and benefit from job counseling and placement when they reach the minimum working age.

Some young people participate in peer education programmes or mobile theatre groups, others volunteer to campaign door to door against human trafficking. In conjunction with outreach efforts through local partners, ILO assists governments improve enforcement of laws and monitor recruitment practices, ensuring that services benefit poor families at risk.