1 December 2003



NEW YORK, 28 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, 2 December:

Slavery has been outlawed by national legislation and prohibited by numerous international instruments.  Yet nearly every day, there are shocking reports of men, women and children who are exploited, denied their basic rights and their dignity and deprived of a better future, through both ancient and modern forms of slavery.

Slavery and trafficking, and related practices such as debt bondage, forced prostitution and forced labour, are violations of the most fundamental 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 sex, our nationality, our social status, our occupation or any other characteristic.

The United Nations, which is based on a reaffirmation of faith in fundamental human rights and in the dignity and worth of the human person, has a special responsibility in the fight to eliminate all contemporary forms of slavery and all slavery-like practices.  To advance in this fight, we must ensure that root causes are addressed -- poverty, social exclusion, illiteracy, ignorance and discrimination in all its forms.

We must also strengthen our legal framework.  I appeal to States to ratify and implement the two optional protocols to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime:  the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children and the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Air and Sea.

I also urge States to make use of the “Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking” prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  These provide practical tools to ensure that human rights are at the centre of anti-trafficking strategies at national, regional and international levels.

And I encourage States to contribute to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, which provides assistance to victims of slavery and slavery-like practices.

Slavery has yet to be eradicated.  On this International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, let us reaffirm our commitment to end this intolerable and unacceptable practice, and our determination to take action to ensure that we do.

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