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    1 December 1999  
    Secretary-General Says Persistence of Slavery, in Era of Human
    Rights Progress, Demands Action by Global Community

    Message for International Day for Abolition Notes Legal Texts, Declares Eradication in All States Vital Goal for New Millennium

     NEW YORK, 30 November (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of a message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan to mark the observance of the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, 2 December 1999:

     The twentieth century has been a century of progress in almost every area of human rights.  This makes the persistence of slavery in today's world even more egregious.  Even as laws banning slavery and its prohibition are enshrined in international instruments, notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is still practised in many forms:  traditional chattel slavery, bonded labour, serfdom, child labour, migrant labour, domestic labour, forced labour and slavery for ritual or religious purposes.

     This is not a time for complacency in the fight against slavery, but a time for action.  States which have not yet ratified the principal international conventions against slavery shall not assume that slavery in all its forms has been abolished and that there is no need to take steps to accede to these conventions.  Similarly, States which ratified them in the past shall not assume there is no longer any need for new laws or measures to ensure that the conventions are implemented.  

     In reality, there is an urgent need for laws and action to ensure that new forms of exploitation and oppression are not allowed to occur, and that old forms of slavery are eradicated, once and for all.

     Trafficking and related practices such as debt bondage, forced prostitution and forced labour are violations of the most basic of human rights. The right to life; the right to dignity and security; the right to just and favourable conditions of work; the right to health; and the right to equality.  These are rights that we all possess - irrespective of our gender, our nationality, our social status, our occupation. 

     Men, women and children are not property but human beings.  The international community should declare, loudly and more strongly than ever, that we are all members of the human family.  Slavery simply has no place in a world of human rights.  As we enter a new century and a new millennium, eradicating slavery is a goal we can and must reach.

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