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UNIS/SGSM/1090
1 December 2020

The Secretary-General

Message on the International Day
for the Abolition of Slavery

2 December 2020

This year's global protests against systemic racism have brought renewed attention to a legacy of injustices all over the world whose roots lie in the dark history of colonialism and slavery.

But slavery is not simply a matter of history.

Today, more than 40 million people are still victims of contemporary slavery. 

Women and girls account for over 71 per cent. 

Slavery manifests itself today through descent-based servitude, forced labour, child labour, domestic servitude, forced marriage, debt bondage, trafficking in persons for the purpose of exploitation, including sexual exploitation, and the forced recruitment of children in armed conflict.

Poor and marginalized groups, in particular racial and ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples and migrants, are disproportionally affected by contemporary forms of slavery.

Gender inequality further reinforces patterns of discrimination.

Today, I call on Member States, civil society and the private sector to strengthen their collective efforts to end these abhorrent practices.

I also call for support to identify, protect and empower victims and survivors, including by contributing to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.

Next year is the 20th Anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference against Racism and Racial Discrimination.

This milestone document defines slavery and slavery-like practices as flagrant violations of human rights.

We cannot accept these violations in the 21st century.

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