Out of the 40 million victims of modern slavery worldwide, almost two-thirds – 25 million people – are exploited in Asia and the Pacific, making the region host to the largest number of victims of modern slavery today.
Further breakdowns of the modern slavery figure reveal that the region accounts for 73 percent of all victims of forced sexual exploitation. Around 68 percent of these have been subjected to state-imposed forced labour while 64 percent endure forced labour exploitation.
Although the share of people living in extreme poverty in Asia and the Pacific has been reduced by about 70 percent over the past 10 years, 62 million children continue to work so that their families can survive.
Fighting these unacceptable forms of work is part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by world leaders in 2015. This is an agenda whereby all countries are committed to achieving 17 interrelated goals and 169 associated targets to guide global development, which are collectively known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Target 8.7 calls for “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”.
The latest figures show that the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Target 8.7, will not be achieved unless efforts are dramatically increased. Ending modern slavery and child labour requires integrated thinking, coordinated action, effective policymaking and the efficient use of resources in unprecedented ways.
Policies beyond the world of work must converge around this goal to address the root causes of forced labour, modern slavery and child labour and find the right incentives and deterrents to change behaviours.
A coherent strategy will include policies that focus on the fundamental rights of workers, education, social protection, labour inspection, informality, youth employment, gender, migration and labour law while also strengthening our knowledge base through statistics and research.
Achieving Target 8.7 will require mobilising partnerships at a new level – partnerships that harness energy, resources and strategic vision. And that’s what Alliance 8.7 is about: a multi-stakeholder initiative, conducting research and sharing knowledge, driving innovation and leveraging resources to accelerate efforts to achieve the target.
This objective requires the active involvement of society as a whole: governments, workers and employers organisations, the private sector, the civil society and community organisations, faith-based groups, academia, the media and individuals.
There are already some encouraging signs – especially in Asia, which has seen the largest decline in child labour since 2012. This progress was accomplished by moving away from isolated approaches and shifting towards policies that tackle the root causes of child labour while strengthening legal frameworks of various countries and their capacities for enforcement.
Let’s continue the momentum and ask ourselves and each other: what more is needed to ensure that there’s no one left behind in our own countries, communities, businesses, schools, and homes? If not us, then who else?
The writer is the assistant director general of theInternational Labour Organisation (ILO).The Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour is taking place in Buenos Aires fromNovember 14 to November 16.