UN to erect slave trade memorial in New York

| 12/01/2012

475181.jpg(CNS): The UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution to construct a permanent memorial to those who suffered under the yoke of slavery and the transatlantic trade at its headquarters, UN officials confirmed Thursday.  The assembly stressed the importance of educating and informing current and future generations about the causes, consequences and lessons of slavery, and requested the Secretary-General to continue organizing activities related to the commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which is held annually on 25 March.

During the assembly’s debate, several delegates added that adopting the resolution, and in turn completing the permanent memorial, were the “least the United Nations could do” to honour those who forcibly became part of the global African Diaspora.

The representative of Jamaica, which chairs the Permanent Memorial Committee, said that while some of the gravest historical wrongs against humankind had been addressed, others had not. Slavery and the transatlantic slave trade had not yet met the threshold of acknowledgement and redemption, which served as rationale for continued action at the United Nations. As the theme for the permanent memorial stated, he said, we are “acknowledging the tragedy, considering the legacy, lest we forget”.

The representative of Guyana, who introduced the resolution on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) said the memorial would offer current and future generations the opportunity to contemplate and reflect on the horrors and indignity of the ignoble system of slavery. It would also serve as a source of inspiration, a symbol of the indomitable spirit of human beings and their capacity to triumph over the worst forms of oppression and bigotry.

The permanent memorial, first called for in General Assembly resolution 62/122, was slated to be completed by the end of 2012, and would be erected in a place of prominence at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

An international competition to select its design was launched in September, and a Trust Fund was established to support its construction. Numerous delegations today stressed the importance of contributing to that fund, which to date had raised over $1 million of the estimated $4.5 million needed to complete the project.

“We are magnanimous enough to forgive, but human enough not to forget,” said the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the African Group of States. The transatlantic slave trade had torn millions of Africans from their homes, “dragged them in chains to the Americas and sold them as slaves”.

Its most salient outcome, he stressed, was the dehumanization of people of African descent, which led to a disturbing legacy of racism and racial discrimination in many countries. Referring to the annual International Day to commemorate victims of the slave trade, he said that event recognized the dearth of inquiry into the experience of enslaved Africans, as well as a continuing gap in literature regarding their individual and collective experiences.

More efforts were needed to promote research, education and outreach programmes to fill that gap, he emphasized, adding that it was “unacceptable” to continue to sweep the identities and contributions of enslaved Africans under the carpet.

Meanwhile, some speakers pointed out that the unjust legacy of slavery was still alive and well in the social life of many countries. The representative of Cuba, stressing that the people of his country were proud of their heritage – which included both Spanish and African blood – said that Africans would remain exploited as long as the “unsustainable and unjust” consumption patterns continued to exclude the majority of people around the world. Former colonial metropolises must “honour their debt” to slaves; it was impossible for them to “wash their hands of the past” and of their responsibilities in that regard.


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  1. Anonymous says:

    Ironic that many of the UN General Assembly not only still endorse slavery but rely on it to sustain their economies

    It's rare that I will agree with any Cuban politician (particularly after their illegal intervention in Angola, Mozambique and Namibia) but this is tokenism/political correctness at it's worst and totally disrespectful to those who were transported from the African continent during the worst excesses of the slave trade.

  2. Simon says:

    Now if they (UN) could only do away with Colonialism that would be something to truly celebrate.