A five-year campaign by human rights campaigners, including the Franciscan religious order, has influenced the Human Rights Council of the United Nations to has decide to appoint a Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.
The appointment is initially for a period of three years, reporting back regularly on indentured labour, trafficking, sex slavery and related issues, reports Franciscans International.
In 2002, Fr Joseph Legonou OFM was the first Franciscan to publicly speak at the United Nations on contemporary forms of slavery occurring in West Africa, especially in Togo.
More than 50 countries joined the United Kingdom in co-sponsoring this resolution, which was adopted by consensus. The text acknowledges that contemporary forms of slavery are a global issue which affects all continents and many countries.
The resolution also expresses deep concern at the increase of the number of people in slavery, at present estimated as a minimum of 12 million, even as the world was recently celebrating the abolition of the transatlantic slave in the nineteenth century.
The new Special Rapporteur will be promoting the application of relevant international norms on slavery. He or she (the appointment has yet to be decided) will also be entitled "to request, receive and exchange information on contemporary forms of slavery, and to respond to reliable information on human rights violations by recommending measures applicable at the national, regional and international levels".
The appointment is described as "a triumph" for Franciscans International, an NGO with special consultative status at the United Nations, who, for 25 years, have been advocating on behalf of the world's poor and vulnerable.
Alessandra Aula, FI's International Advocacy Coordinator, declared: "What was a critical gap has today been adequately filled."