Dec 04, 2012

UNPO: Highlighting The International Day For The Abolition Of Slavery

In light of the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery UNPO urges everyone to remember their responsibility to stand up against the continuing enslavement of millions of people.

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery was celebrated on Sunday 2 December. It marks the anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, resolution 317(IV), on 2 December 1949.


The UN and media have drawn attention to this day, as have several organizations and groups by organizing a variety of events such as film screenings, discussions and conferences. The International Labour Organization (ILO) for instance supports this day by teaming up with prominent artists, athletes and advocates in its campaign “End Slavery Now”, raising awareness of persistent slavery.


Today the international community still carries the responsibility to work towards the abolition of slavery since it continues to be a reality for a massive number of people today; according to an UN estimate, for 21 million children, women and men. A statement Ban Ki-moon made as part of his message for the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery 2012 reflects this responsibility by referring to the origins of this day:


“The movement against slavery brought together the international community to declare that slavery practices constitute an affront to our common humanity and that no human being should be another’s property.


Ban Ki-moon put the focus of this year’s message for this special day on contemporary manifestations of slavery, particularly in form of sexual exploitation, child labour, forced marriage, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict. According to UNICEF one in six children worldwide works, most frequently because of economic exploitation. This violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognizes “the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.”


At the same time the UN acknowledges that some traditional forms of slavery still persist. This is the case for many Haratin, constituting 40% of the population in Mauritania. Over 50% of Haratin group are enslaved in a medieval fashion, including very young children. They are regarded as property of their master rather than human beings born free and equal in dignity and rights. The Haratin are represented at UNPO by the Initiative de Résurgence du Mouvement Abolitionniste en Mauritanie (IRA). This anti-slavery organization was established by and is made up of freed slaves in Mauritania.


IRA leader Biram Abeid stated in his speech on November 29th at the UNPO General Assembly in Geneva that the Haratin have become much more hopeful since joining UNPO in September 2011. He believes that through this cooperation major developments will occur within the next five years as the Haratin will become ever more empowered. IRA is an active organization, both inside Mauritania and on international level.


Their membership in UNPO resulted in an alternative report being submitted for the review of Mauritania in the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights from 12 to 30 November 2012, as well as a number of events and projects taking place. The most recent of those took place at the European Parliament, including the conference “Contemporary Slavery: Understanding the New Face to an Old Evil” on 17 June 2012 as well as a roundtable discussion titled “Slavery in Mauritania: Exploring Traditional Slavery in the Contemporary Context” on 10 October 2012. UNPO strongly condemns the continuation of slavery in any form and urges the Government of Mauritanian to implement its 2007 law criminalizing slavery without further deferral.