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International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

The United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Abolition of Slavery is annually held on December 2 to raise awareness of the atrocities of modern slavery. It's not to be confused with another UN day, the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery reminds people that modern slavery works against human rights.

©iStockphoto.com/milansys

What Do People Do?

Many people use the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery as an opportunity to share their perspective in writings through poetry, opinion pieces, interviews, feature articles, short stories and other published material. Classrooms may review the history of slave trade, its evolution and changes it has undergone through to modern times. Students may also learn about the negative impacts of slavery on society.

Online, print and broadcast media promote the day through news, debates, forums, and talks about modern day slave trade and why it is a serious human rights issue. Political leaders, including senators and those with ministerial responsibilities, also take the time to urge the public to work together in eradicating any form of slavery in modern society. Flyers, posters, leaflets, newsletters about abolishing slavery and slave trade are also distributed throughout universities and in public areas on this day.

Public Life

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery is an observance but not a public holiday.

Background

The United Nations is committed to fighting against slavery and considers bonded labour, forced labour, the worst forms of child labour and trafficking people as modern forms of slavery. Some sources day that more than one million children are trafficked each year for cheap labour or sexual exploitation. These types of slavery are global problems and go against article four of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “no one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”.

The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery recalls the adoption of the UN Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (resolution 317(IV) of December 2, 1949). To remember the convention, a UN report of the Working Group on Slavery recommended in 1985 that December 2 be proclaimed the World Day for the Abolition of Slavery in all its forms. By 1995, the day was known as the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

On December 18, 2002, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2004 the International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition. On November 28, 2006, the assembly designated March 25, 2007, as the International Day for the Commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The UN also annually observes the UN’s International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on August 23.

Symbols

The UN emblem is often found in online and print material used to promote events such as the United Nations’ International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. The emblem consists of a projection of the globe centered on the North Pole. It depicts all continents except Antarctica and four concentric circles representing degrees of latitude. The projection is surrounded by images of olive branches, representing peace. The emblem is often blue, although it is printed in white on a blue background on the UN flag.

Note: It is unclear on when the name “International Day for the Abolition of Slavery” was first used instead of the “World Day for the Abolition of Slavery” but the new name was mentioned in a UN report in 1995.

World Day for Slavery Abolition Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2015WedDec 2World Day for Slavery AbolitionUnited Nations observance
2016FriDec 2World Day for Slavery AbolitionUnited Nations observance
2017SatDec 2World Day for Slavery AbolitionUnited Nations observance
2018SunDec 2World Day for Slavery AbolitionUnited Nations observance
2019MonDec 2World Day for Slavery AbolitionUnited Nations observance
2020WedDec 2World Day for Slavery AbolitionUnited Nations observance
2021ThuDec 2World Day for Slavery AbolitionUnited Nations observance
2022FriDec 2World Day for Slavery AbolitionUnited Nations observance
2023SatDec 2World Day for Slavery AbolitionUnited Nations observance
2024MonDec 2World Day for Slavery AbolitionUnited Nations observance
2025TueDec 2World Day for Slavery AbolitionUnited Nations observance

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