United Nations, Feb 21: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon said that the World Day for Social Justice comes at a pivotal moment for people and the planet, adding that this year' s commemoration focuses on the scourge of human trafficking and the plight of approximately 21 million women, men and children in various forms of modern slavery.
"New instruments such as the ILO (International Labour Organisation) Protocol and Recommendation on forced labour and human trafficking are helping to strengthen global efforts to punish perpetrators and end impunity," the secretary-general Friday said in his message to mark the Day, which falls Friday.
"We must continue to do more. We simply cannot achieve development for all if we leave behind those who are socially and economically exploited," Xinhua reported.
In what he described as a crucial year for global development, the secretary-general said more needed to be done to eradicate all forms of human exploitation.
The UN General Assembly proclaimed Feb 20 as World Day of Social Justice in 2007, inviting member states to devote the day to promoting national activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the World Summit for Social Development and the 24th session of the General Assembly.
With member states working to craft a post-2015 agenda and a new set of sustainable development goals, the secretary-general called on the international community to build a world of social justice where all people can live and work in freedom, dignity and equality.
"Around the world, there is a rising call to secure a life of dignity for all with equal rights and respect for the diverse voices of the world's peoples," he said. "At the core of this movement lies the need for social justice."
In a separate message for the Day, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said, "There is no inevitability, no excuse: Forced labour can be stopped."
Ryder said that the economic gap continues to widen, with the richest 10 percent earning 30 to 40 percent of total income while the poorest 10 percent earn between 2 and 7 percent. In 2013, 939 million workers, or 26.7 percent of total employment, were still coping on two US dollars a day or less.
"The situation is aggravated by the widespread absence of basic social protection. Millions of people are subjected to unacceptable conditions of work and the denial of fundamental rights," Ryder said.
According to the ILO, about 21 million women, men and children are forced to work under inhuman conditions on farms, in sweatshops, aboard fishing vessels, in the sex industry or in private homes. Their sweat generates 150 billion US dollars in illegal profits annually.
And women and children are particularly at risk of being abducted and sold into slavery in times of violent conflict. Forced labor can also keep entire families in abject poverty for generations.
The ILO calls for ending forced labor with an integrated approach, with governments, employers, trade unions and civil society each having a role to play in protecting, defending and empowering those who are vulnerable, as well as creating opportunities for decent work for all.