In November 2022, the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) held the first Seminar on Forced Labor in the Livestock and Gold Mining Production Chains in Pará, Brazil. The training was organized in partnership with the State Commission for the Eradication of Slave Labor (COETRAE/PA) and the Secretary of State for Justice and Human Rights of the State of Pará (SEJUDH).
The event aimed to create a space for the discussion of concepts, research findings, and recommendations developed in collaboration with national and local institutions in the state of Pará. These efforts led to improved knowledge and greater sharing of experiences with strategic actors. COETRAE is part of an essential platform to combat slave labor, or human trafficking, in the state, informing member institutions about policies, legislation, and good practices in assisting victims and efforts to combat these crimes.
The event allowed participants to recognize the importance of a committed and trained COETRAE in tackling the issue of forced labor. This aligns with PADF’s work to improve the state’s response to labor rights violations and fully integrate the available services.
During the roundtable on strengthening actions for forced labor survivors, the Secretary of Access to Justice in the Public Defender’s Office Action Plans to Combat Modern Slavery reinforced the importance of being able to integrate justice services into referral networks to offer effective follow-up to workers.
The first day of the seminar included a presentation on the national and international regulatory frameworks for trafficking in persons and forced labor by UNODC’s project coordinator and a law professor at the Federal University of Pará (UFPA). They emphasized that “modern slave labor” in Brazil is defined by four conditions – degrading conditions, debt bondage, exhausting working hours, and forced labor – different from the traditional definition related to the crime of restriction of freedom.
To contextualize the conditions of forced labor in Brazil, the second day included a discussion of the profile of judges and workers, social and racial inequality in Brazil, and the inspection procedure conducted by the Inspector’s Office for the Eradication of Forced Labor (DETRAE), which relies on a network of complaints and strategic planning to prevent putting workers at risk.
To demonstrate ways to counter degrading working conditions and the cycle of exploitation, a labor inspector from the Regional Superintendency of Labor of Mato Grosso presented on the Integrated Action Project, an initiative implemented by the state of Mato Grosso, which conducts labor integration actions for workers rescued from forced labor, along with social programs and public policies. The presentation aimed to show COETRAE how it could execute a similar project in the state of Pará, through the support of PADF and justice institutions.
On the third day, a discussion was held on the racial, ethnic, and gender dimensions of forced labor. Research was also presented on indigenous populations affected by labor exploitation and lured into work in gold mining.
Other researchers pointed out that in both the cattle ranching and gold mining production chains, the mistreatment of women in domestic work and sexual exploitation are correlated and underreported in forced labor assessments, making it necessary to run awareness and protection campaigns targeting women and girls.
The DPU, through the Coordination of Action Plans to Combat Modern Slavery, showed the participants the role of the agency in the national referral pathway and reinforced the importance of incorporating justice services in referral networks to support workers more effectively.
Other presentations covered how and where forced labor exists in the cattle ranching production chain in Pará. The research contextualized the industry’s high incidence of degrading conditions and the difficulties in holding ranchers accountable. They also discussed the important role of the blacklist in combatting forced labor, provided it has enough visibility and is reinforced by data from the justice system.
The research presented regarding the gold production chain in the Tapajós region highlighted the difficulty of tracking and verifying the legality of gold registered in the region. The researchers emphasized that 96% of gold traced to Brazil cannot be verified as having a legal origin. As an alternative for improving gold tracing, the “Green Seal” initiative was introduced, a project by the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) that cross-references data for geographic monitoring of production chains. The seal is currently being implemented in the state of Pará for monitoring protected forest reserves on ranches and for tracking cattle.
On the last day, a participatory workshop was held to develop a pathway for service and survivor referrals. By discussing and exchanging their experiences, the participants were able to apply the knowledge they acquired during the event and outline action strategies. PADF and UNODC are committed to sharing the workshop results and the surveys, comments, and experiences shared by participants during the event.
Published on January 20, 2023.
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