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International Labour Organization Governing Body: UK Statement on the Forced Labour Convention

This statement was delivered on 22 March 2017 during the ratification and implementation of the Protocol of 2014 on the Forced Labour Convention.

The ILO is in Geneva, Switzerland.
The ILO is in Geneva, Switzerland.

The UK aligns itself with the statement of the EU and its Member States.

In common with many international partners, the UK is striving to bring about a world free of all forms of modern slavery, including forced labour. We are working to reduce modern slavery in, and trafficking of people from, originating countries to the UK by helping to build their capacity to address this scourge; we are building partnerships to reduce slavery with those countries where the prevalence of modern slavery is highest; and we are working tirelessly at the multilateral level to influence norms, raise the level of global ambition, and to drive coordinated, coherent global action to eradicate modern slavery.

The 2014 Protocol to the 1930 Forced Labour Convention is an extremely important element in the international legal base for tackling modern slavery – and one which the UK was early to support. The UK was the third country to ratify it and we support the ILO in its efforts to encourage other countries to do so, including actively supporting the ILO’s 50 for Freedom campaign.

The UK complies with the Protocol through a number of legislative instruments including through the Immigration Act of 2015 and the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015. The Modern Slavery Act takes a comprehensive approach. It gives law enforcement the powers they need to deter and disrupt the perpetrators of modern slavery, establishes tough new penalties, and enhances support and protection for victims.

Furthermore, the Act requires commercial organisations operating in the UK with a turnover of £36m ($44.5m) or more to publish a ‘slavery and human trafficking statement’ each year. These world leading provisions requiring greater transparency in supply chains include measures to encourage businesses to seek to improve labour standards well beyond the UK.

In 2015 the UK and other states strongly supported the case for the establishment of UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7, which commits countries to “take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour…..”

We continue to advocate for a strengthened and unified UN approach to human trafficking, modern slavery and forced labour - making better use of existing structures, including the Inter-Agency Coordination Group Against Trafficking in Persons, to ensure that they work much more effectively. We are also supporting initiatives such as Alliance 8.7 which complement and support these structures. The UK believes Alliance 8.7 will be invaluable in helping to deliver on this ambitious SDG target.

There can be no room for complacency. That is why we are taking such strong action in our own country and working with others across the world, so that - together - we can eradicate it. My country, like every other ILO member state, knows that it must do more. The International Labour Organization has an important role to play in the international community’s response and exchanges such as today’s help to strengthen international cooperation and coordination to tackle the scourge of modern slavery.

Published 22 March 2017