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Commemorative Ceremony for the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

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16 Март 2021

16 March 2021

Excellency, Madam Chairperson of the African Group,
Excellency, Mr. Dean of the African Group,
Excellency, Mr. Coordinator of the African Group,
Excellency, Madam High-Commissioner for Human Rights, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bula Vinaka,

We are here together today to remember and commemorate a dramatic page in our history, the history of mankind, during which millions and millions of men, women and children have experienced the worst forms of abuse and violations of their most basic human rights. It is certainly a very shameful and obscure heritage, however, it should be preserved, taught and constantly reminded to present and future generations so that it does not happen again.

Today reminds us also that in the midst of the darkness, villainy, oppression and injustice of slavery, brave men and women had put their life at risk to attain justice, freedom and equality for all human beings. For that reason, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade should also be used to pay tribute to our forefathers and foremothers who sacrificed their lives in defence of basic human values like freedom, justice, love and peace, that we enjoy today. We must therefore pay tribute to them by perpetuating and installing this heritage and the same values in our communities for the benefit of present and future generations.

Excellencies,
Madam High-Commissioner for Human Rights,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me, at this juncture, to express my sincere thanks to the Permanent Delegation of the African Union, the African Group and the NGO "World Against Racism Network" for organizing this important ceremony to commemorate the International Day for the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade enshrined as such in the Durban Declaration, which had pronounced slavery as a crime against humanity.

I would also like to seize this opportunity to pay tribute to the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms, namely, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (WGPAD) and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, who have played a key role together with African states and civil society organizations in obtaining the recognition of the International Day for the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Additionally, I commend the General Assembly for its initiative of the United Nations International Decade 2015-2024 for People of African Descent”, proclaimed on the theme "Recognition, Justice and Development". This decade is in line with the objectives of the 2030 agenda and the Durban Plan of Action.

As President of the Human Rights Council, I shall spare no effort in ensuring that the Council remains aware of the importance of the link between human rights and development, particularly through the 2030 agenda and the objectives of sustainable development.

Excellencies,
Madam High-Commissioner for Human Rights,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year marks the two-hundred fourteenth anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA). And yet, the same causes producing the same effects continue after all these years, signalling that we must reaffirm our commitments and upscale our efforts to put an end to all forms of slavery. It is truly unacceptable that slavery continues all around us today. Today's slaves are the victims of forced labour, forced marriage, human trafficking and forced domestic labour, only to name a few. Racist and xenophobic violence as well as acts of violence vis a vis religious communities and ethnic groups have become viewed by many as acts of a trivial nature. However, these acts are clear evidence that the old demons are still present. That is why, in addition to its commemorative dimension, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade should be used as a time of re-commitment and reflection on how we can better fulfil our collective duty of making protecting and promoting human rights a reality.

Allow me here to commend my predecessor, Ambassador Elisabeth TICHY-FISSLBERGER, whose leadership last year contributed so much to the adoption of texts in response to the death of George Floyd and the Covid-19 pandemic, namely: the Resolution Promotion and protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Africans and of people of African descent against excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers; and the Presidential statement (PRST) on the human rights impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. These are indeed encouraging achievements that demonstrate the vividness of the Human Rights Council and its capacity to fulfil its mandate whenever so required.

For my part, I can assure you that under my Presidency and with the support of my Vice-Presidents, the Ambassadors of Sudan, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and the Bahamas, the Council will be guided by the principles of universality and constructive international dialogue, in fulfilling its mandate.

Excellencies,
Madam High-Commissioner for Human Rights,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have no doubt that this commemorative meeting will bring up diverse viewpoints and examples of best practices for increasing public awareness of racism, xenophobia, intolerance and all forms of discrimination. So, let us take this opportunity to learn from one another, because diversity is the key.

I wish you all a very successful and thoughtful International Day for the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

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