A new international agreement on modern slavery will enter into force in 2016, following ratifications by Niger and Norway. [UN News Centre] The Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 updates a 1930 treaty, including by addressing the increase of forced labor in the private sector and the vulnerabilities of workers in specific industries and at-risk groups, such as migrants. The Protocol also emphasizes States’ responsibilities to prevent forced labor and make available compensation and rehabilitation. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), there are approximately 21 million forced labor victims worldwide, who generate $150 billion USD annually in illicit profits. See ILO, Forced Labour, Human Trafficking and Slavery.
On June 11, 2014, the ILO adopted the 2014 Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) along with Recommendation No. 203 to modernize the provisions of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), particularly with respect to preventing forced labor, protecting victims, and providing access to remedies. [ILO Press Release: New Protocol] Recommendation No. 203 provides non-binding technical guidance to States concerning implementation of the Protocol. See ILO, Brief on the Protocol.
The adoption of the Protocol and the Recommendation No. 203 will bolster the effect of existing instruments, including the UN Slavery Convention; the UN Protocol to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children; and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. See ILO, Brief on the Protocol.
As a result of Niger and Norway’s ratifications, the Protocol will enter into force on November 9, 2016. [ILO Press Release: Norway Ratification] For each future State party, the Protocol will enter into force twelve months after its own ratification, according to Article 8 of the instrument. The ILO has also launched the 50 for Freedom campaign in an effort to get 50 countries to ratify the Protocol by 2018. [Guardian] The Forced Labour Convention, 1930 is one of the most widely accepted ILO treaties, having been ratified by 178 States. Only ILO Member States that are party to the original convention, which remains open for new ratifications, may ratify the Protocol.
Background to the Protocol and Recommendation
Government, employer, and worker members of the International Labour Conference (ILC) Committee on Forced Labour noted in its report to the 103rd Session of the ILC that there were gaps in the implementation of both the Forced Labor Convention, 1930 (No. 29) and the Abolition of Forced Labor Convention, 1957 (No. 105), and emphasized the need for a legally binding instrument aimed at eliminating forced labor. The ILO has found that women and girls comprise more than half of the victims of forced labor, particularly with respect to domestic work and commercial sexual exploitation, while men and boys are generally forced to work in agriculture, construction, and mining. [ILO Press Release: New Protocol] The majority – an estimated 19 million people – of victims are coerced or tricked into involuntary work by private businesses or individuals. See ILO, Forced Labour, Human Trafficking and Slavery. Nearly half of victims have moved, either within their own countries or internationally, for work. See ILO, Brief on the Protocol.
Key Provisions of the Protocol
The Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labor Convention, 1930 reaffirms the definition of forced labor in the Convention, which includes trafficking in persons for the purpose of forced labor. See ILO, Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (entry into force 9 November 2016), art. 1(3). With respect to preventative measures, the Protocol notes that States Parties should educate employers and vulnerable individuals about forced labor; enforce legislation that applies to all workers and sectors of the economy; strengthen labor inspection services; protect individuals, including migrant workers, from possible abuse and fraud during recruitment and job placement; support efforts by the public and private sectors to prevent and respond to complaints of forced labor; and address the underlying causes of forced labor. See id., art. 2.
The Protocol dictates that States should take steps to assist victims of forced labor, including by identifying and rehabilitating victims. Additionally, the Protocol requires governments to ensure that victims of forced labor are not prosecuted or penalized for unlawful acts committed as a result of being subjected to forced labor. See id. at arts. 3, 4(2).
To ensure the effectiveness of measures against forced labor, the Protocol states that perpetrators should be sanctioned and that victims should have access to remedies, including compensation, regardless of their legal status in the State. See id. at arts. 1(1), 4(1).
The Protocol requires States to develop national policies and plans of action against forced labor in consultation with employers’ and workers’ organizations and to cooperate with other States to eliminate forced labor practices. See id. at arts. 1(2), 5.
Enforcement of the Protocol
States that ratify the Protocol must submit a report every three years detailing measures taken to implement the Protocol, which will be examined by ILO supervisory bodies. See ILO, Brief on the Protocol. States are generally required to submit reports every two years on their implementation of the four priority and eight fundamental conventions of the ILO, which include the Forced Labour Convention, 1930. See ILO, Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations. View the Committee of Experts’ comments on States’ implementation of the Forced Labour Convention through NORMLEX. States that have not yet ratified the Protocol must partake in the annual reporting process outlined in the Follow-up to the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.
Although the Protocol is now guaranteed to enter into force as a international legal instrument, it will only be binding on those States that ratify it. Proponents of the Protocol are hoping that Niger and Norway are only the first of many to agree to be bound by it. The ILO, together with the International Organization of Employers (IOE) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) launched a global campaign called 50 for Freedom to persuade at least 50 countries to ratify the Forced Labor Protocol by 2018 in an effort to end modern slavery. Those who are interested can support the campaign at 50forfreedom.org/. See ILO, ILO 50 for Freedom Campaign Kicks Off.
For more information on the International Labour Organization (ILO), please visit the IJRC Online Resource Hub. To learn more about how international labor standards are developed, visit the ILO’s website.