Panama takes the lead in the Americas in the fight against forced labour

September 7, 2016

The Protocol will require the government to take new measures to tackle modern slavery in all its forms.

Photo: Causeway Islands, Panama (Ayaita)


Panama has become the first country in the Americas to ratify the Forced Labour Protocol, reinforcing its international commitment to fight modern slavery, including human trafficking.

It is therefore the first in the region to have ratified all three ILO instruments on forced labour – the other two being the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29) and the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105), which Panama ratified in May 1966.

The ratification occurred one year after the visit of President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, to the International Labour Conference, when he signed the 50 for Freedom panel to show his support for the ILO campaign to promote ratification and raise awareness about modern slavery.


“This ratification is a reaffirmation of the vision of Panama to not tolerate forced labour and child labour. The signing has been brought about thanks to two key players, the Ministry of Labour, under the leadership of the Minister Luis Ernesto Carles, with support at State level from President Juan Carlos Varela, “said Rorix Javier Nuñez, Head of the Office of International Technical Cooperation. “We were surprised to be the first country in Latin America to ratify. It is important that the Protocol has the support of all ILO member States,” he added.

Panama has a solid legislative framework against all forms of forced labour. In 2011 it adopted a new law against trafficking in persons and activities related to trafficking. This law gives a broader definition of the crime of trafficking and adds to the Criminal Code a new chapter on a number of offenses related to trafficking, including forced labour and slavery.

In terms of institutions, Panama also has a National Commission against Trafficking in Persons, which has adopted the national plan against human trafficking for the period 2012-2017. This plan foresees intervention on five key strategic areas: prevention, protection of the victims, repression; National and international cooperation; and monitoring and controlling the implementation of the plan.

The Forced Labour Protocol is a legally-binding treaty that requires governments to adopt new measures designed to prevent modern slavery, protect its victims and guarantee them access to justice and compensation.