Join networks and organizations that are fighting slavery (see box). Add your voice to a concerted campaign towards eradication and take up specific causes.
Make other people aware that slavery still exists. Ignorance isn’t bliss. Anti-slavery groups could do without having constantly to explain why they are still needed. Show this copy of the NI to friends, discuss the issue with a group you are part of (such as faith groups, trade unions, student groups), write to your local paper.
Make your money talk. Use your consumer power positively. Buy fair trade products – from bananas to chocolate to carpets. This will keep slave labour out of the frame and give producers a fairer price for their goods. Badger your local retailer or supermarket to stock fair trade goods if need be. (Check out fair trade addresses at www.newint.org/issue322/action.htm )
Hold companies to account. Get behind the ad-speak by asking companies if they have a corporate code of conduct that respects the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) core labour standards. Ask how this is applied to their suppliers and whether compliance with the code is independently monitored and verified.
Lobby your government to take action. Write to your elected representatives and ask them to press for policies which would help to end slavery.
Ratify international standards that prohibit modern forms of slavery and introduce domestic laws to bring these standards into force. The list includes: the 1926 UN Convention on Slavery, the 1930 ILO Convention on Forced Labour (Number 29), the 1956 UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the 1973 ILO Convention on Minimum Age (Number 138), the 1999 ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (Number 182) and the 2000 Protocol on Trafficking in Persons which supplements the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.
Ensure laws prohibiting slavery are properly enforced. Additionally, victims need to be supported, protected and compensated while perpetrators should be prosecuted and punished.
Tackle the root causes. Governments can inform people about their rights; provide them with access to land and credit; provide basic health and education to all; and end discrimination that marginalizes particular groups and makes them vulnerable to exploitation.
Set up working groups that actually get to work. These could take up initiatives against slavery and provide information to the public and relevant national and international bodies.
Play an active role in intergovernmental organizations to help combat slavery. Start by giving the UN teeth. Currently the organization has a raft of impressive international legislation but no power to act independently against abuses. Consequently countries with the most appalling human-rights records can sign up to UN conventions, safe in the knowledge that this is good for their image and that at worst all they can expect from the UN is censure.
The United Nations. The UN should appoint a Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery to carry out on-site investigations in individual countries, reporting directly to the Commission on Human Rights, which would have powers to act.
The International Labour Organization. The ILO should assist governments in their efforts to eliminate forced labour in their countries. This could include helping draft anti-slavery legislation and training officials to enforce it; aiding small enterprises to be more competitive; and setting up programmes to boost employment, particularly of vulnerable groups.
The WTO, IMF and World Bank. These organizations which have worked tirelessly to uphold the trading rights of big business, whilst ‘structurally adjusting’ the rest of the world need to be compelled to prioritize human rights in their treaties and diktats.
The European Union. The EU should focus on the fight against slavery within its member states as well as in its overseas assistance programmes, applying diplomatic pressure where necessary.
Other intergovernmental bodies. The Organization of African Unity, the Commonwealth and the Organization of American States can ensure all member states have signed international standards prohibiting slavery. They could become channels for the exchange of information and for action.
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