From Protocol to Practice: A Bridge to Global Action on Forced Labor (The Bridge Project)

Project Duration
September 2015
July 2023
Funding and Year

The Problem

There are an estimated 24.9 million men, women, and children in forced labor. They are trafficked, held in debt bondage, or work under slavery-like conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic has made countering forced labor even more challenging. Vulnerable people who have lost their jobs in the informal economy are at greater risk of falling into forced labor.

In June 2014, governments, employers, and workers overwhelmingly supported the adoption, during the ILO International Labor Conference, of the new ILO Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labor Convention, 1930 and the Recommendation on supplementary measures for the effective suppression of forced labor. If widely ratified and implemented by ILO member countries, the Protocol and Recommendation will be a catalyst for achieving the vision of a world without forced labor.

Our Strategy

The project seeks to effectively eliminate traditional and state-imposed forced labor systems and to significantly reduce contemporary forms of forced labor, which are often linked to human trafficking. The project does this by: 

  • Increasing knowledge, awareness, and implementation of the 2014 ILO Protocol and Recommendation; 
  • Improving evidence-based and responsive national policies and action plans on forced labor with strong implementation, monitoring, and enforcement mechanisms; 
  • Enhancing efforts to collect reliable national statistics in order to carry out research and share knowledge across institutions at national, regional, and global levels; 
  • Strengthening workers’ and employers’ organizations to support the fight against forced labor in partnership with other interested parties; and 
  • Bolstering awareness and livelihoods programs to prevent forced labor and to provide victims with access to remedies.


Awareness Raising on Forced Labor

  • The Bridge Project supported the "50forFreedom" campaign, which aims to achieve at least 50 country ratifications of the Protocol by 2018, through the development of a web platform, awareness-raising materials on the Protocol and Recommendation, and through establishing partnerships with media groups to increase public awareness of forced labor. Through these efforts, the project signed up over 77,000 people who pledged to show their support to end child labor. As of July 2022, 59 countries have ratified the protocol.
  • To increase the media’s understanding of forced labor, the project developed a media training toolkit on forced labor and fair recruitment to train journalists and students.

Capacity Building

  • The Bridge Project's support to the Government of Peru led to Peru’s criminalization of forced labor in 2017 (Art. 129-O Criminal Law) and the ratification of the ILO Protocol on Forced Labor in 2021.
  • The project evaluated Peru’s National Plan 2013-2017 and supported the development of the country’s National Plan 2019-2022 (approved by the National Commission in July 2018 and by the government in September 2019). The project is currently monitoring the National Action Plan, which was endorsed by the Ministry of Labour in 2020. These plans are critical in ensuring policies protect victims and work to end forced labor.
  • In Malaysia, the project supported the government in formulating and adopting the National Action Plan on Trafficking in Persons, which includes forced labor and child labor.
  • To support countries in creating their own plans, the project created a Developing National Action Plans on Forced Labor toolkit (2020). A number of countries, including Chile, used the toolkit to design and develop National Action Plans on Forced Labor.
  • The project developed training materials for employers, law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, and legal aid practitioners on forced labor, helping them to better comply with and enforce labor laws.


  • The project supported Peru and Niger’s National Forced Labor Surveys in collaboration with the National Institute of Statistics. The surveys are critical tools in understanding the scope of forced labor in the countries.
  • The project supported the integration of a forced labor module into Nepal’s National Labor Force Survey, which will enable the collection of much-needed data on forced labor in Nepal.
  • In partnership with the Government of Malaysia, the Bridge Project supported the Employment Survey in Oil Palm Plantations and conducted recruitment cost surveys for the Malaysia-Indonesia corridor (plantation and domestic work) and the Malaysia-Philippines corridor (domestic work). This information helped the government shape the National Action Plan on Forced Labor, launched in 2021.

Victim Remedies

  • In Malaysia, Mauritania, Nepal, and Peru, the Bridge Project helped to design, implement, and monitor community-based prevention and rehabilitation programs. The project also developed and trained a network of lawyers and judicial officials to support strategic litigation of individual forced labor cases.
  • The Bridge Project provided livelihood support to 1115 bonded laborers (a majority of whom are women) across 16 different trades in three remote districts of Nepal. The livelihood interventions are integral to combatting gender stereotypes and discrimination.
  • The Bridge Project facilitated the receipt of identity cards and birth certificates for 1857 vulnerable children and adults in Niger. Children without birth certificates are more vulnerable to violence, abuse, and exploitation.
  • With the project’s assistance, Peru formulated the “Protocol on Labor Inspection of Forced Labor” to prevent, investigate, and sanction cases of forced labor.
  • The project provided 400 female victims/descendants of slavery in Niger with vocational training, literacy and numeracy, life skills, business trainings, and post-training support. This support will help them transition to life after forced labor.

Innovative Strategic Partnerships

  • In Peru, the project partnered with the national agency responsible for land transport of people, cargo, and merchandise to raise awareness among drivers, agency managers, and passengers to recognize potential signs of forced labor and trafficking. This partnership also supported training for agency inspectors. Within two months of training, each trainee had identified an average of 10 cases for investigation, using the ILO indicators of forced labor and related crimes.
  • In Peru, the project provided training to peace judges in rural communities, who serve as de facto adjudicators in parts of the country where there is minimal state presence. The project supported the development of a Directive that guides the peace judges’ actions when handling cases that may be related to forced labor and guides their coordination with other authorities. By enlisting the peace judges in a role of prevention, awareness raising, and referral, the project has expanded access to forced labor remediation and justice in the country.
  • Also in Peru, the National Labor Inspection Office for Tumbes led school campaigns to prevent forced labor in collaboration with the project. This included drama sketches performed by labor inspectors, drawing competitions, and training of teachers in different regions using materials developed by the project. These campaigns targetted the most vulnerable age group in pre-identified recruitment points and used engaging methods, which has proven to be very effective. Students are now able to identify potentially fraudulent recruitment tactics and are aware of the complaint mechanisms in place should they or someone they know fall victim to forced labor.
  • In Mauritania, the project formed an alliance with the Regional Collective of Mayors of Assaba and persuaded them to champion the project, despite their initial reservations about acknowledging slavery. Winning their support was essential to gaining the trust and cooperation at municipal and community level that was necessary to advocate and raise awareness on this issue.
  • In Malaysia, the project formed partnerships to create innovative communication tools to raise awareness of forced labor. The project partnered with Project Liber8 (a non-profit organization elevating youth voices against human trafficking and labor exploitation) and data analysts at a local telecommunication company to develop a Facebook chatbot providing information for workers on labor rights, forced labor, and complaint mechanisms. The chatbot is a free service, currently available 24/7 via Facebook and it can interact with any user using multiple languages (including English, Bahasa Melayu, Bengali, Khmer, Nepali, Mandarin, Tamil and Burmese). The project also collaborated with social media influencers in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Malaysia to develop and publish TikTok videos covering different indicators of forced labor in the construction, plantation, and manufacturing sectors.    

Labor-Employer Dialogues

  • In Mauritania, the project established social dialogue frameworks in the fishing, domestic work, and livestock sectors. This process brings together workers and employer organizations in each industry to evaluate risk factors for forced labor and agree to standards of compliance on fundamental principles and rights at work. By defining vulnerabilities to forced labor, the dialogues increase workers’ and employers’ awareness of the problem. And by incorporating this issue into their negotiation of standards, the parties increase their institutional commitment to action to prevent and protect workers from forced labor.

Learn About Our Success

Pushpa Lohar painting a metal grate. Photo by ILO.

Pushpa Lohar, from Kanchanpur, Nepal participated in a 52-day house painting training, provided by the Rastriya Haliya Mukthi Samaj and supported by the the U.S. Department of Labor–funded Bridge Project.

International Labor Organization (ILO)
Implementing Partners:
International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)
Contact Information:
(202) 693-4843 / Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT)
Child Labor
Awareness Raising
Capacity Building
Forced Labor
Social Services