Press Releases

1 December 2005

Secretary-General Underlines Need for Zero Tolerance in Message to Observe International Day for Abolition of Slavery

NEW YORK, 21 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's message on the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, to be observed on 2 December:

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery is a day on which we must acknowledge that despite centuries of struggle, slavery has not been completely eradicated from our world.

Many forms of slavery persist, including forced and bonded labour, child labour and slavery for ritual or religious purposes.  The world is also now wrestling with a new form of slavery -- trafficking in human beings, in which many vulnerable people are virtually abandoned by legal and social systems into a sordid realm of exploitation and abuse.

People who perpetrate, condone or facilitate slavery or slavery-like practices must be held accountable by national and, if necessary, international means.  The international community must also do more to combat poverty, social exclusion, illiteracy, ignorance and discrimination, which increase vulnerability and are part of the underlying context for this scourge.

I urge all States to ratify and implement existing instruments related to this effort, in particular the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.

I also call on States to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons appointed last year by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and to make greater use of the "Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking" prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which provide practical tools for effective anti-trafficking strategies at the national, regional and international levels.

I hope as well that States will contribute generously to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, which provides assistance to victims.

On this International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, let us reiterate our conviction that human dignity is at the heart of the work of the United Nations, and that ensuring full respect for the human being requires zero tolerance for slavery.

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