Statement at commemoration of International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 20 March 2018


20 March 2018
at 13:30 in Room XXIII

Ambassador Laourou [PR of Benin],
Ambassador Johnson [PR of Togo],
Amabssador Stevens [PR of Sierra Leone],
Deputy High Commissioner Gilmore,
Mrs. Momal-Vanian [Director Conference Management, UNOG],
Mrs. Gordon [DPR and Chargé d’affaires of Jamaica],
Mr. Endrias [Central Council of African Communities in Germany],
Mr. Lonn [World against Racism Network],
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon everyone. 

It is an honour and a pleasure to be here with all of you to participate in this important commemoration. 

I wish to thank Ambassador Bramdeo, the African Union, the Members of the African Group and the World Against Racism for organizing this event, and for inviting me to address you today.

The International Day of Remembrance provides the international community with the opportunity to honour the victims of four centuries of human tragedy, and those who opposed the atrocities that were suffered by more than 15 million individuals. 

It is a fitting occasion to come together, reflect on the issue of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, and explore further the contemporary consequences of this tragic history and its implications in our society today.

There is a global lack of knowledge about the four-hundred-year-long transatlantic slave trade, and its lasting consequences continue to be felt throughout the world. 

Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are affecting societies around the globe on a daily basis, and we continue to witness the horrors of modern day slavery that have no place in the 21st century. 

Therefore, this Day of Remembrance must, above all else, serve as a call for all of us to strengthen our efforts in awareness raising and education. 

It is only through teaching future generations about the causes and consequences of slavery and raising awareness about the historical injustice of the transatlantic slave trade that we will be able to change attitudes, customs and patterns of inequalities. 

Yesterday, the Human Rights Council held its annual debate on the state of racial discrimination worldwide, as part of the commemoration of the International Day of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. 

This year’s debate focused on promoting tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity in the context of combating racial discrimination, and I noted that many of the panellists emphasized within their presentation the key importance education.

By educating children early on about tolerance, respect and human rights, and promoting integration, unity and diversity, we can foster mutual understanding and respect and build more stable and resilient societies. 

We will, in fact, be able to change the attitudes, customs and patterns that lead to the violations of the innate right of every human being to be free and equal. 

But we all must work together – States, civil society, international organizations, and educational institutions -- to ensure that education and awareness-raising efforts are strengthened at the local, national, regional and international levels.

The Human Rights Council is just one of many spaces where the international community can come together and join forces to raise awareness and take steps to end racial intolerance and modern day slavery. 

While the numerous mandates of the Council on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, related intolerance and slavery show the importance that the international community places on these issues, it also indicates that we are far from fulfilling our responsibilities in these areas. 

As I am sure you are all very much aware, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reiterates that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and prohibits slavery and the slave trade in all of its forms. 

Moreover, this year the world celebrates the 100th birthday of the late South African President Nelson Mandela. 

In the name of all victims and survivors and fighters against slavery and repression, today we must commit ourselves to work together to end racism, racial discrimination, intolerance and modern day slavery.

I have no doubt that this is the most meaningful way for us to truly remember the victims of the transatlantic slave trade

Thank you.