Ms Irina Bokova,
Director-General of UNESCO,
on the occasion of International Day for the
Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition
23 August 2011
The transatlantic slave trade is one of the most extreme violations of human rights
in history. The duration, extent and magnitude of this dehumanizing enterprise have
led to its universal condemnation. The International Day for the Remembrance of
the Slave Trade and its Abolition is an opportunity to reflect once again on this
tragedy and to pay tribute to those who struggled for its abolition in the light of the
universal recognition of human rights.
The commemoration carries special importance this year. 2011 marks the 10th
anniversary of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance that was held in Durban, where the slave
trade was acknowledged as a crime against humanity.
2011, is also International Year for People of African Descent. This is a chance to
examine the effects of the slave trade, whose ignominious practice has in part
shaped the face of modern society, across all regions of the world. This history can
also nourish our thinking about our multicultural and multiethnic societies today.
The history of the slave trade provides unique insight also to nearly four centuries of
linkages and exchanges among peoples and cultures. Each of us must be
empowered to learn about this past and to reclaim it, as a necessary step in
building new common ground. Managing cultural diversity and fighting prejudice
and racial discrimination raise high stakes in globalizing world. Ten years after the
adoption of the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, our collective
responsibility is greater than ever before.
UNESCO plays a leading role in fostering understanding and recognition of this
history. Since the establishment of the Slave Route project in 1994, UNESCO has
worked to break the silence on the slave trade and slavery. UNESCO helps States
in supporting research, in enriching their own national history and in facilitating the
sharing of memories.
On this day of remembrance, UNESCO will launch the international competition on
the permanent memorial to the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade
that will be built at United Nations Headquarters in New York. UNESCO is proud to
participate in this initiative launched by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
The memorial will symbolise universal recognition of the tragedy as one that befell
not only Africans and people of African descent but humanity as a whole.
On this day, call on all UNESCO partners -- national authorities, international
agencies, civil society, artists and historians -- to carry this message forward and to
join us at the official site of the competition United Nations slavery memorial
Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition 23 August 2011