Press Releases

         2 December 2004

    ‘Slavery Is not a Thing of the Past’, Secretary-General Reminds International Community, in Message to Mark International Day

    NEW YORK, 1 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message for the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, observed on 2 December:

    The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery should serve as a reminder to people every­where that slavery is not a thing of the past. Today, millions of men, women and children are bought and sold as chattels, forced into bonded labour, held as slaves for ritual or religious purposes, or trafficked across borders, often to be sold into prostitution. All these forms of slavery are abhorrent, and must be eradicated.

    The year 2004 has been declared the International Year for the Abolition of Slavery -- a reminder to all States that they must tackle this odious form of oppression. Slavery offends every value that underlies the United Nations Charter, and the Organization and all its Member States must take a strong stand against it.

    I urge all States to ratify and implement existing instruments in this area -- including the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children.

    States should ensure that human rights are at the core of anti-trafficking strategies -- and in doing so, should draw on the “Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking” prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

    I welcome the appointment by the UN Commission on Human Rights of a Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.

    And I encourage all States in a position to do so to contribute to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, to help victims rebuild their lives.

    Slavery was the first human rights violation to be addressed at the international level -- and it is one that we must be vigilant in stamping out today. No human being is another’s property. On this day, and in this year, let us reaffirm our commitment to abolish slavery from every country, and ensure that the rights and dignity of people everywhere are respected.

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