Oct 02, 2012

Slavery in Mauritania: Exploring Traditional Slavery in the Contemporary Context

On 10 October 2012, UNPO will convene a roundtable discussion at the European Parliament on Slavery in Mauritania and the role of the EU.

Slavery in Mauritania

Exploring Traditional Slavery in the Contemporary Context

15.00 – 18.00

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Room A7H1, Altiero Spinelli Building, European Parliament, Brussels

Despite the abolition of slavery as the world traditionally understood it, the phenomenon took a new face to becoming what in the present day discourse is known as ‘contemporary slavery’. Contemporary slavery takes many forms, including human trafficking, debt bondage and domestic slavery, all based on the exploitation of the human being.  Within this discourse, contemporary slavery is regarded as a new face to an old evil. Yet in some parts of the world, the old evil has kept its old face, and continues as an undisguised form of traditional slavery.

This is especially true in the case of Mauritania, a country that has captured the world’s attention by officially criminalizing the holding of slaves only in 2007, following international pressure. Descent-based slavery especially targets the Haratin, the largest minority group in the country who remain the most politically and economically marginalized in a deeply and ethnically stratified Mauritanian society, as a result of centuries of enslavement by the dominant Arab-Berbers. This situation compels us to re-visit the issue of slavery and to re-ponder on the meaning of the phenomenon in a contemporary context.  

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) will therefore convene the roundtable discussion on “Slavery in Mauritania and the Role of the European Union” in the European Parliament, Brussels on 10 October 2012 from 15.00 to 18.00.

Gulnara Shahinian (UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery) will provide insights and recommendations while Mariya Gabriel (MEP) will explore possible ways of how to create a convergence of the yet still parallel efforts to fight modern and traditional forms of human trafficking and slavery. Other perspectives and contributions will be provided by Ulrich Delius (Society for Threatened Peoples), Irene Wintermayr (ILO),  Abidine Merzough (Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania), Claire San Filippo (Amnesty International), as well as by Members of the European Parliament, policy advisers and experts on the topic. 

By bringing together actors working to make a substantial change to the inhumane situation of slavery in Mauritania and other forms of contemporary slavery, this discussion will provide important insights and recommendations in tackling the injurious phenomenon of contemporary slavery, facilitating concrete proposals for action and advocacy. 

Following the European Commission’s adoption of a new EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings on 18 June 2012, this discussion aims to explore ways of bringing traditional forms of slavery in the current contemporary slavery discourse.

For media queries please contact:

Maud Vanwalleghem   |   +32 251 314 59   |  [email protected]

To register, please send your full name, date of birth, nationality, passport/ID number, organization to:

Zdena Mtetwa   |   Tel: +32 251 314 59   |  [email protected]


For the official press release in pdf, click here

For the press reminder in pdf, click here

For the post-event press release in pdf, click here