Remarks at the Launch of the “Consolidating and Disseminating Efforts to Combat Forced Labor in Brazil and Peru” Project

Thank you everyone for being here this afternoon, especially Minister Antonio José de Barros Levenhagen, Minister Ideli Salvatti for her motivational remarks, and ILO Director Laís Abramo.

Many thanks as well to the Tribunal Superior do Trabalho for hosting the launch of the project “Consolidating and Disseminating Efforts to Combat Forced Labor in Brazil and Peru.” Minister Bentes Correa really has been a true global leader in efforts to combat child labor and forced labor, and I would like to recognize, this afternoon, the close relationship that the U.S. government has enjoyed with him over the years.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to be here today and represent the U.S. Government at the launch of this important initiative. The Governments of the United States and Brazil have partnered for a decade to eradicate forced labor and child labor, both here in Brazil, and increasingly, in other countries as well. Our governments, and our citizens, share common objectives of promoting dignity at work and providing brighter futures for our children.

The International Labor Organization (ILO), an essential partner in these efforts, has recognized Brazil for its innovative initiatives to combat forced and child labor. At the same time, our Department of Labor has been a leading force in efforts to raise awareness about and fund effective programs to make progress on these issues. The Department of Labor has funded more than 270 projects in more than 90 countries, working with Governments, international and nongovernmental organizations, worker and employer organizations, and civil society to advance efforts to address child labor and forced labor. Since 1995, our Department of Labor has supported Brazil’s efforts to combat child labor and forced labor through programs implemented by the ILO, contributing to strong and constructive cooperation on these issues.

Today, along with Brazil and the ILO, we are announcing this enormous initiative to combat forced labor: the project “Consolidating and Disseminating Efforts to Combat Forced Labor in Brazil and Peru.” This program furthers an effective model of tripartite cooperation that we have pioneered with Brazil and the ILO on labor issues. This model strengthens innovative Brazilian initiatives to essentially “export” their best practices and lessons to other countries. Among these initiatives, I would like to highlight the forced labor mobile units at the Ministry of Labor and Employment; also the national, state, and municipal level commissions for the eradication of slave labor; and the National Pact for the Eradication of Slave Labor.

This project builds on these initiatives and will share Brazilian good practices with the Peruvian government and other stakeholders. We, the United States, is pleased that the ILO is implementing this initiative, because it has extensive experience working with the Brazilian and Peruvian governments on child labor and forced labor issues. In Brazil, the ILO works side-by-side with the government at every level, as well as with members of the comissãoes nacional estaduais e municipais, employers, unions, members of Pacto Nacional, the state of Mato Grosso, and victims of forced labor and their families to implement project activities.

One of the key components of this project is the exchange of good practices between Brazil and Peru, complementing Brazil’s efforts to promote South-South cooperation in Latin America as well as Peru’s efforts to combat forced labor. This exchange of good practices also complements our bilateral dialogue on labor issues led by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Brazilian Ministry of Labor and Employment.

We hope that this project will bolster ongoing efforts and generate new best practices that will be shared, expanded, and disseminated in many countries. One of the project’s components, which we will follow with great interest, is the partnership with Mato Grosso state’s Açao Integradaprogram to provide tangible opportunities to victims of forced labor and the potential replication of this program in other states as well as in other countries.

Make no mistake – this is an ambitious and complex project that seeks to address a range of labor abuses that often remain hidden in the shadows of economies across the world, including our own. To be successful, it will need to not only shine a light on these abuses, but also to ensure that its victims are able to chart a new path forward through access to the skills and opportunities needed to secure dignified work.

I look forward to continuing to build upon the noble goals of this project and to strengthening our relationship with the Brazilian government, as we work together to help ensure that workers and their families have dignity at work and a chance at a brighter future.