30 November 2001


NEW YORK, 29 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to mark the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, 2 December:

This year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the international community's decision to abolish slavery everywhere and to adopt the first international convention intended to do so, the Slavery Convention. Many people may consider that this treaty is not relevant to the twenty-first century. But in the past year we have been reminded that slavery and servitude remain all too common, even if today they are commonly referred to as bonded labour, forced labour, the worst forms of child labour and trafficking in persons. These modern forms of slavery affect every continent, demonstrating our collective failure to implement the provisions of Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that "no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms".

The past year has seen advances in the fight to abolish all forms of slavery, for example the adoption of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, which supplements the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, both of which were adopted in November 2000. Numerous States have already incorporated the standards outlined in the Protocol and other recently adopted legal instruments into national law.

As always, implementation of international treaties is the true test. National legislation must be enforced. Victims of slavery need protection and support in pursuing remedies or compensation. Particular attention needs to be paid to child victims, to ensure that they are not subjected to further abuse following their release. And the many individuals working tirelessly and courageously in this battle deserve strong support.

The United Nations, for its part, must coordinate its efforts to address root causes of slavery, such as poverty and discrimination, and to promote international standards -– such as the 1990 Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families -- which have a role to play in prevention. It is encouraging that the International Labour Organization has intensified its efforts to eradicate cases of forced labour.

In the Declaration adopted at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, States acknowledged that slavery and the slave trade were appalling tragedies in human history, and that they are crimes against humanity and should always have been so. On the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, let us all reaffirm our commitment to this cause.

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