Author(s): Donald Anton
Two major ILO Conventions prohibit forced or compulsory labor in all its forms – Conventions 29 and 105. Convention 29 was adopted in 1930. Forced labor at the time was mostly seen as related to the dictates of colonial administrations, along with a few states. Despite this perceived limited context, the ILO adopted an open-ended definition of prohibited forced labor without listing specific prohibitions. The definition continues to apply to every possible form of forced labor and to all workers no matter whether in the public or private sector. Convention 105 was adopted in 1957. It advances Convention 29 by requiring the immediate abolition of forced labor in five specific cases related to forced labor by the State for economic purposes or as a means of political coercion.
Yet, for some time, it has been felt that gaps existed and additional measures were needed to strengthen international cooperation to combat modern forms of forced labor. In 2013, an ILO tripartite meeting of experts concluded that “[d]espite the broad reach of Convention No. 29…significant implementation gaps remain in the effective eradication of forced labour and need to be urgently addressed in terms of prevention, victim protection, compensation, enforcement, policy coherence and international cooperation…” The experts also concluded “that there was added value in the adoption of supplementary measure to address the significant implementation gaps remaining in order to effectively eradicate forced labour in all its forms.” Acting on these conclusions, the 103rd Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) voted on its third major instrument designed to strengthen international efforts to end all forms of forced labor. With 437 votes for, 8 against, and 27 abstentions, the General Conference of the ILO adopted the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention, 1930.