Despite scientific and technological advances over the past century, more than 40 million people worldwide continue to be victims of modern-day slavery, the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported, showing that countries made little or no progress in stopping forced labor.
“Modern slavery is used as an umbrella term covering methods such as forced labor, indebtedness, forced marriage and human trafficking. It mainly refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave due to threats, violence, coercion, fraud or abuse of power,” says the UN. on its website.
To raise awareness, the UN commemorates December 2 as the International Day for the Elimination of Slavery. The UN said the current focus will be on raising awareness of the need to eradicate modern forms of slavery such as human trafficking, sexual exploitation, child labor, forced marriage and forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.
The ILO further states that private economies earn $ 150 billion in illegal profits each year from slavery. In addition, 150 million children are exposed to child labor – almost every tenth child around the world. One million children are trafficked every year for cheap labor or sexual exploitation, the report says.
Article 4 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an international document adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948, prohibits slavery. The document, which enshrines the rights and freedoms of all human beings, states that “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”
The worst countries for modern slavery in 2019 were North Korea and Eritrea, where governments are involved in forced labor, according to a report by the Walk Free Foundation, an Australian anti-slavery group. The report singled out Libya, Iran, Equatorial Guinea, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo, Russia and Somalia for lack of action to end slavery. Rich countries that have taken some action were Qatar, Singapore, Kuwait, Brunei, Hong Kong and Russia, according to the report.
Some countries have slowed down or slipped backwards in their efforts by reducing the number of identified victims, reducing anti-slavery funding or cutting back on support systems, the report said. While an estimated 16 million people are trapped in forced labor, only 40 countries have surveyed public or business chains to look at such exploitation, the report suggested. In almost 100 countries, forced labor is not considered a crime or is a minor crime. About a third of the countries ban forced marriage. On the other hand, Georgia, Nigeria, Ukraine, Moldova, Ethiopia and Mozambique were notable for taking measures to end modern-day slavery despite their limited resources, it indicated.
Ending modern-day slavery in 2030 was one of the global goals unanimously adopted by UN members five years ago. But at today’s pace, it is “impossible” to achieve that goal, the report says. That would require about 10,000 people to be released every day for the next decade.