On August 22-23, 2023, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), in partnership with the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), hosted the 2nd international roundtable on forced labor in the cattle ranching sector in Pará, Brazil. Entitled, “Strengthening the State Commission for the Eradication of Forced Labor (COETRAE-PA) - Contexts and Challenges,” the event aimed to strengthen the efforts of COETRAE (Comissão Estadual para Erradicação do Trabalho Escravo; in English, State Commission for the Eradication of Slave Labor). It also sought to support the implementation of the national protocol for assisting victims of forced labor in Pará. With funding by the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, the event was hosted through ABA ROLI and PADF’s joint program, Combating Forced Labor in Pará, Brazil, and in collaboration with the Federal University of Pará (Universidade Federal do Pará, UFPA), and the Secretary of State for Racial Equality and Human Rights (Secretaria de Igualdade Racial e Direitos Humanos, SEIRDH).
Launched in July 2022, this two-year program was ABA ROLI’s first program focused solely on Brazil. In Brazil, forced labor (FL) cases are often concentrated in rural areas, and according to official statistics, the northern state of Pará had the highest annual average of FL victims across all industries from 1995 to 2020. Most commonly, FL victims are recruited from poorer neighboring states by “gatos” or employers and moved to remote locations where they are immobilized and subjected to poor working conditions and debt bondage - one of the most common types of forced labor mechanisms in Brazil. Through this program in Pará, ABA ROLI is responding to complex forced labor cases, specifically in the labor intense industry of cattle ranching.