International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is on August 23 of each year, the day designated by UNESCO to memorialize the transatlantic slave trade. That date was chosen by the adoption of resolution 29 C/40 by the Organization’s General Conference at its 29th session. Circular CL/3494 of July 29, 1998, from the Director-General invited Ministers of Culture to promote the day. The date is significant because, during the night of August 22 to August 23, 1791, on the island of Saint Domingue (now known as Haiti), an uprising began which set forth events which were a major factor in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

UNESCO describes:

“In the night of 22 to 23 August 1791, men and women, torn from Africa and sold into slavery, revolted against the slave system to obtain freedom and independence for Haiti, gained in 1804. The uprising was a turning point in human history, greatly impacting the establishment of universal human rights, for which we are all indebted.”

Contemporary slavery, also known as modern slavery, refers to the institutions of slavery that continue to exist in the present day. Modern slavery is a multibillion-dollar industry with estimates of up to $35 billion generated annually. The United Nations estimates that roughly 27 to 30 million individuals are currently caught in the slave trade industry, three out of every 1,000 people worldwide. If they all lived together in a single city, it would be one of the biggest cities in the world. Modern slavery is all around us, but most people don’t even realize it. There are over 1.5 million people working in slavery-like conditions in Europe, North America, Japan and Australia. Most of the people in slavery work in industries such as agriculture, fishing construction, manufacturing, mining, utilities and domestic work. Around one in five are victims of sexual exploitation.

Problem of modern slavery is crucial for sustainable development. Modern slavery affects everyone. Even if you’re not a victim of modern slavery, you’re still affected by it. Businesses, for example, face unfair competition from unscrupulous companies who reap the profits of modern slavery. That may put pressure on them to lower wages or cut benefits. Meanwhile governments lose out on precious tax revenue while facing huge legal costs from prosecuting modern-slavery cases-money which could be spent on public services like education, healthcare or public transportation.

Learn more about modern slavery

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