31 Mar

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Katalin Bogyay Permanent Representative of Hungary at the panel discussion on Combatting forced labour and modern slavery through new legal instruments and partnerships on 31 March 2016.

Mr. Chair, distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us today and devoting your lunch time for attending our panel discussion. 

Slavery as a global problem

Two days ago we gathered in the General Assembly hall to observe the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. While it may sound shocking to many of you present in this meeting room, forced labour, child labour, human trafficking, debt bondage and other contemporary forms of slavery are very common even in the 21st century. According to recent estimates, modern slavery affects between 20 and 36 million women, men and children across the globe.

Modern slavery is one of the most horrific crimes of our times that violates the most fundamental, inalienable human rights of its victims, it steals the most precious values of human beings, namely their freedom and dignity.

At every fora where we discuss this issue, I always stress that modern slavery affects people from all nationalities, including many Hungarians. Although outlawed universally, we can find victims, as well as perpetrators in every part of our world.

Due to the increased interest of the media representatives to report on specific cases of modern slavery, we can more and more often hear and read about the child slaves working in cocoa fields or in the textile sector, the young girls and women enslaved by Boko Haram and ISIL, the migrant slave workers of the seafood industry and in the construction business, the many women and children exploited in the sex industry, the Hungarian men found in the UK working 16 hours every day for 10 pounds in a bed making factory whose owner has been jailed just last month for 2 years and three months, and the list could be continued.


The relevance of the 2030 Agenda

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In September 2015, the world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is a far-reaching plan of action to promote a peaceful and prosperous planet and to ensure that “no one will be left behind”.

Target 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda specifically calls for the eradication of forced labour, ending modern slavery and human trafficking, and securing the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour.

Member States also committed themselves “to eliminate human trafficking and sexual and other exploitation” (in Target 5.2), “to promote labour rights and safe and secure working environment” (in Target 8.8), and “to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children” (in Target 16.2).

In Goal 17, we – Member States – also called for establishing global and multi-stakeholder partnerships to support the achievement of the SDGs. 

Key steps for success

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In order to ensure the successful implementation of the aforementioned targets, Hungary is of the view that the following will be necessary:

Step 1

First of all, we need political leadership.

Today’s panel discussion, the many side events during the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, or the high-level event to be organized by the Holy See on 7 April clearly prove that there is growing interest among UN Member and Observer States to fight modern-day slavery.

We – States – need to play a proactive, leading role in the fight against modern slavery. Without devoting more time, energy and resources to this noble cause, the war cannot be won. While Hungary is a relatively small country, we are ready to be active and we welcome that more and more states feel the same.

Step 2

Secondly, raising awareness both at the national and global levels is crucial. In this respect, the media, the advocacy groups and civil society in general can also contribute significantly.

Step 3

Thirdly, the calls for the UN system to be “fit for purpose” and “deliver as one” when implementing the SDGs are equally valid for the specific Target 8.7.

While the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna both carry out extremely important work in their respective areas, the attention devoted to these issues here in New York could and – in our opinion – should be greater. We also recognize the important work carried out by the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (the so-called ICAT) in the field of human trafficking.

On the other hand, we have to keep in mind that Target 8.7 is not limited to human trafficking, but also refers to forced labour, child labour and modern slavery. For this reason, we encourage the exploration of further measures or mechanisms that could improve inter-agency coordination and result in meaningful, effective collaboration among the UN actors for the achievement of this ambitious target.

In this context, I propose – as a first step – the conclusion of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or cooperation agreement between the UN agencies relevant for the implementation of Target 8.7. In this consensual document, the UN agencies could mutually recognize the respective mandates of each other, decide on a clear division of labour, and agree on joint projects and sharing information with each other with the view to avoid any duplication of efforts or competition.

Step 4

Fourthly, the size and complexity of the problem requires not only a UN system fit for purpose, but also the positive engagement of the numerous stakeholders willing to play a role in the fight against modern slavery. The establishment of effective partnerships is particularly important with business actors, civil society, and religious organizations.


Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am, of course, aware that many of the issues I raised require a series of discussions and careful exploration by Member States and other relevant actors. In order to assist this process and initiate such a dialogue, I am hosting an informal working lunch tomorrow that will offer an opportunity for the ambassadors of the most active Member States and key UN agencies to discuss such questions.

Thank you for your attention.

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