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ILO Standards On Forced Labour

At its 103rd Session in June 2014, the International Labour Conference decided overwhelmingly in favour of selecting a new Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), as well as a Reference that supplements both the Protocol and Convention No. 29. The Protocol and Recommendation give new purpose to the global fight against all forms of forced labour, including trafficking in persons and slavery-like practices.

The devices– also referred to as the A protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930, and the Forced Labour (Supplementary Measures) Recommendation (No. 203), 2014 – were selected following a two-year consultative process[1]. The preliminary work pointing to the choosing of the new instruments included extensive research into national law and practice, as well as the observations of the supervisory materials comparing to the purpose of the forced labour Conventions.

This work also included discussions with and among the ILO's tripartite constituents, as well as information from the United Nations partners and non-governmental organizations. Under the ILO Constitution, governments are expected to propose any device selected by the International Labour Conference to their national competent authorities for the law of relevant legislation or other action, including ratification.

The ILO has developed this announcement in response to requests from ILO constituents for knowledge about the new instruments and their provisions. It is designed as a reference for government administrators and employers' and workers' representatives involved with laws and policies on forced labour, as well as those accountable for the follow-up of ILO instruments.

The announcement is also addressed to partners within the UN system, NGOs and other stakeholders involved in the new ILO instruments on forced labour and their improvement. While this brochure concentrates on the new Protocol and Recommendation, it also presents an summary of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105).

The ILO Standards against forced labour
Why adopt new standards on forced labour?
ILO Convention No. 29, adopted in 1930, determined forced or compulsory labour as:
all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily.

While this comment remains effective and while the ILO's forced labour Conventions are among its two most highly approved instruments, much has changed since the first forced labour Convention was adopted in 1930. At the time, forced labour was originally used by colonial authorities and in certain independent states.

Today, the ILO values that about 21 million men, women and children are in forced labour around the world – trafficked, held in debt servitude or working in slavery-like conditions. Ninety per cent are abused in the private economy, and almost half of all victims have migrated internally or across borders. Forced labour makes an estimated US$150 billion in illicit profits, causing businesses and companies to face unfair opposition and States to lose billions in tax income and social security contributions.

Together, the ILO's forced labour instruments – including the new Protocol and Guidance, as well as Conventions Nos. 29 and 105 – provide all actors with a complete policy and set of tools to address the difficulty of the elimination of all forms of forced labour. The Protocol and Recommendation bring ILO standards opposite forced labour into the contemporary era.

The new Protocol places the responsibilities to stop forced labour, protect victims and provide them with access to remedies and highlights the link between forced labour and trafficking in persons. In line with Convention No. 29, the Protocol also reaffirms the significance of continuing the perpetrators of forced labour and ending their privilege. The Recommendation presents introductions and guidelines to fulfil these obligations.

The Protocol and Recommendation will complement and extend existing international law, including the UN Slavery Convention of 1926, the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery of 1956 and the UN Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children. These machines have provided to public refusals of slavery, forced labour and human trafficking practices.

But the scale of the problem suggests a need for new approaches, including a focus on prevention, for the situation through measures that encourage the role of labour inspection and workers' and employers' organizations. The greater importance on protection and entrance to improvements brought by the Rules will also help to ensure that the human rights of victims are
considered and perpetrators more adequately punished.

The popular support for the new instruments by government, employer and worker representatives to the Conference in 2014 describes a call to work and evidences a powerful political will to return to the challenges posed by forced labour today. If universally ratified and implemented, the Protocol, together with the current ILO Conventions on forced labour and other relevant international instruments, will act as an incentive in directing the vision of a world without forced labour into existence.

What are the international labour standards
Concerning forced labour?
The ILO has selected two conventions on forced labour, which are lawfully necessary instruments open to ratification by ILO member States[2]
  • Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29)
    Convention No. 29 requires ratifying States to suppress all forms of forced or compulsory labour (Article 1(1)). As the first meeting on the subject, it provides the definition of forced or compulsory labour (Article 2(1)) and lists 5 exceptions. It also needs enacting States to guarantee that the use of forced labour is criminal as a penal offence and that penalties are really adequate and strictly enforced (Article 25).
  • Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105)
    The ILO selected a second convention on forced labour, Convention No. 105, which does not change Convention No. 29 but points at complementing it concentrating on five practices that had emerged following the Second World War, including forced labour as a penalty for the expression of political views, for the purposes of economic development, for participation in strikes, as a system of racial or other discrimination or as labour discipline. Convention No. 105 originally involves forced labour required by state authorities. In 2014, the ILO approved two new instruments on forced labour:
    • Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930
      The Protocol is an authorised-binding instrument that needs States to take divisions of restriction, security and support in giving effect to the Convention's commitment to overcoming forced labour. It supplements Convention No. 29, so only ILO member States that have approved the Convention can ratify the Protocol. The Convention itself inhabits open for ratification.

      Forced Labour (Supplementary Measures) Recommendation, 2014 (No. 203) Recommendation No. 203, which increases both the Protocol and Convention No. 29, presents non-binding practical direction concerning steps to increase national law and policy on forced labour in the areas of restriction, the strength of victims and securing their way to justice and remedies, implementation and international collaboration. It grows on the provisions of the Protocol and should be read in conjunction with it.

What is forced labour?
Forced labour can be interpreted as work that is performed involuntarily and under the danger of any penalty. Article 2(1) of Convention No. 29 defines forced or compulsory labour as all work or service which is required from any person under the danger of any penalty and for which the said a person has not allowed himself voluntarily. This definition consists of three elements:
  1. Work or service:
    All work or service applies to all types of work, service and employment, happening in any activity, industry or sector, including in the informal economy. Forced labour can happen in both the public and private sectors.
     
  2. Danger of any penalty:
    The Danger of any penalty refers to a wide variety of penalties applied to force someone to perform work or service, including penal sentences and many forms of direct or indirect pressure, such as physical violence, psychological threats or the non-payment of wages. The penalty may also consist of a loss of rights or opportunities (such as a promotion, transfer, or access to new employment).
     
  3. Involuntariness:
    The terms offered voluntarily connect to the free and knowledgeable approval of a worker to enter into an employment relationship and his or her liberty to give the employment at any time. For instance, an organisation or recruiter could prevent this freedom by presenting false encouragements to induce a worker to take a job that he or she would not unless have believed.

The ILO Committee of Experts has announced that [w]hen utilising the Convention, ILO elements opted for a wide definition of the term forced labour – including the three factors examined above – rather than defining a list of prevented practices. The use of a the extended definition has passed the ILO supervisory teams to discuss common methods of forced labour, such as traces of discipline or slave-like systems, and different forms of debt servitude, as well as new forms of forced labour that have occurred in recent decades, such as human trafficking.[3]

The Forced Labour Protocol (Article 1(3)) explicitly reaffirms the definition of forced labour in Convention No. 29 and proves that it incorporates conditions of trafficking in persons for the purposes of forced or mandatory labour. Exceptions to the forced labour definition Article 2(2) of Convention No. 29 represents certain insufficient privileges to the forced labour definition.

According to this preparation of the Convention, the following five situations do not constitute forced labour:
  • Work required under compulsory military service for the the necessity of national defence given that the work required on soldiers is of purely military character.
  • Healthy civic responsibilities of a fully self-governing country, such as compulsory board service, or the duty to assist a person in danger.
  • Prison labour as an outcome of a conviction in a court of law, presented it is carried out under the direction and control of a public authority and the condemned persons is not authorised to or placed at the conclusion of private individuals, companies or associations.
  • Work required in cases of emergency, such as war, disaster or endanger the lives or well-being of the whole or part of the population.
  • Minor communal services performed by the members of a community in the direct benefit of that community presented that the agreement or its direct delegates are discussed concerning the need for such services.

What are the transitional provisions?
The initial aim of Convention No. 29 was to progressively eliminate forced labour in colonial territories while demanding the immediate suppression of forced labour for special purposes. As a result, Article 1(2) and (3) and Articles 3 to 24 of the Convention provided for a transitional phase during which States could still make insufficient use of forced labour for public plans, subject to a number of special controls.

As approved by the Conference and recorded in the Introduction of the Forced Labour Protocol, this the transitional phase has long since departed, and consequently the so-called transitional provisions are no longer appropriate. Following the entry into force of the Protocol on 9 November 2016, the transitional preparations from
Convention No. 29 held formally removed (Article 7 of the Protocol).

End-Notes:
  1. The new instruments represent the outcome of a single discussion in the Committee on Forced Labour of the International Labour Conference in 2014. The official reports submitted to the Committee, as well as the reports summarizing the Committee's discussion,
  2. As of 15 October 2016, the Forced Labour Convention (No. 29), 1930, had been ratified by 178 countries and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention (No. 105), 1975, had been ratified by 175 countries.
  3. ILO, General Survey on the fundamental Conventions concerning rights at work in light of the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization, Report of the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, 2012, ILC.101/III/1B, para. 272.

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