Mauritania has ratified the 2014 protocol to the Forced Labor Convention (1930), making it the second African country to commit to carrying out the protocol.
It joins Niger, Norway and the United Kingdom which were the first countries to ratify the protocol aimed at fighting forced labor in all its forms, including human trafficking.
Slavery is a historical practice in Mauritania and both adults and their children are the property of their masters.
The Haratin, who make up the main “slave caste”, are descended from black African ethnic groups along the Senegal river. They often work as cattle herders and domestic servants.
The West African country has the highest prevalence of slavery, according to the Global Slavery Index, which estimates that 4 percent of the population – or some 150,000 people – are living as slaves.
Mauritania’s Director General of Labor, Hamoud Ould T’Feil Ould Bowbe, said the protocol “will strengthen and supplement the framework for penalizing slave or similar forced labor practices.”
Slavery was abolished in Mauritania in 1980 and criminalized in 2007. But a 2009 report of the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Special Rapporteur concluded that de facto slavery continued to exist in the country.
Aeneas Chapinga Chuma, the ILO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa, welcomed Mauritania’s “renewed efforts towards combating slavery-like practices” adding that the ratification of the ILO convention “is a first concrete step in putting in place the legal framework to protect people from the scourge of human exploitation and forced labor.”
The ILO estimates there are 21 million victims of forced labor across the world who generate approximately $150 billion in illicit profits annually.
Adopted in 2014, the convention requires states to take effective measures to prevent, protect and ensure that victims of forced labor have access to justice and compensation.