The International Labour Organisation was the scene of a fine first afternoon at the ILO 1 Committee, focusing on fundamental labour rights and modern slavery. The session saw dynamic interaction between governments, trade unions and employers’ representatives, underlining the complexity and urgency of these global issues.

The session began with a question-and-answer session led by the Chair to break the ice and set the mood. Following this, a number of governments, including Indonesia, India and Germany, took the floor to present their policy papers, highlighting their different perspectives on the issue: “How can measures to tackle modern slavery be strengthened?” Each delegation had the opportunity to present its ideas, with contributions from governments, trade unions and employers’ representatives.

The first phase of lobbying by the fundamental rights delegates was devoted to the issue of controlling modern slavery. A Japanese worker suggested forming a coalition against complicit governments. This proposal was strongly supported by the Chinese delegates, who were particularly well prepared. China positioned itself as a developing country, expressing its feeling of being hindered by Western economies dependent on its cheap labour.  Barbados focused on education as a means of combating modern slavery, underlining the importance of investing in human capital.

After a well-deserved break, the alliances focused on selecting the main sponsors for the resolutions. The debates resumed with renewed lobbying to finalise these resolutions and affirm support for one of the two resolutions. 

The first resolution, presented by Indonesia, saw the Indian government and Australian workers as the main sponsors. This proposal stresses the importance of international collaboration and concrete measures to combat modern slavery. 

The second resolution was tabled by the United States. There was also an alliance between workers and the Indian government, seeking to negotiate a labour agreement with Saudi Arabia in exchange for financial resources. However India seemed to prefer an alternative approach. 

American workers and employers worked closely together, while the Rwandan government proposed the creation of a fund to combat slavery and support the poorest families. Barbados, for its part, called for a specific aid fund.

In summary, during this first afternoon of debate within the ILO 1 committee, the delegations demonstrated a deep commitment and a willingness to work together to find viable solutions to these urgent problems. 

Ruben Buchot and Timothé Fournier