Monday, 26 August 2013

Speech: The slave Trade Is Not Merely A Thing Of The Past

Ms Irina Bokova

(Being Speech By Irina Bokova; Director-General Of UNESCO On The Occasion Of International Day For The Remembrance Of The Slave Trade And Its Abolition On August 23rd, 2013)

On 23 August, which marks the anniversary of the slave uprising in Saint Domingue, UNESCO celebrates the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.

Transmission of this history is the cornerstone of UNESCO’s efforts to build peace, intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding. The slave trade reduced millions of human beings to mere chattels and was a crime of universal scope that shook the very foundations of civilization. The significance and implications of this history must be known to all and must be taught in and outside schools, through the media and in the public arena. UNESCO is committed to achieving this through teacher training, support for research and the protection of cultural and documentary heritage.

Under the Slave Route Project, UNESCO aims to reveal the extent and consequences of this human tragedy and to portray the wealth of the cultural traditions that African peoples have forged in the face of adversity – in art, music, dance and culture in its broader sense. This year, on the eve of the twentieth  anniversary of the Slave Route Project, I designated as a UNESCO Artist for Peace Mr Marcus Miller, who will undertake the mission of promoting the UNESCO Slave Route Project and conveying its message of respect through music. These endeavours will contribute to efforts for the Decade for People of African Descent (2013-2022), proclaimed by the United Nations in 2012.

The slave trade is not merely a thing of the past: it is our history and it has shaped the face of many modern societies, creating indissoluble ties between peoples and continents, and irreversibly transforming the destiny, economy and culture of nations. Studying this history is tantamount to paying tribute to freedom fighters and to acknowledging their unique contributions to the affirmation of universal human rights. They have set an example for us to continue the struggle for freedom, against racial prejudice inherited from the past and against new forms of slavery that subsist to this day and affect some 21 million people.

Today, I invite all governments, civil society organizations and public and private partners to redouble their efforts to transmit this history. May it be a source of respect and a universal call for freedom for future generations.

Ms Irina Bokova,

Director-General of UNESCO,

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