23 September 2013

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Secretary-General, Unveiling Winning Design for Permanent Memorial to Victims

of Slavery, Says It Will Help Ensure Such Tragedy Never Recurs


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the ceremony for the unveiling of the winning design for the permanent memorial to the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, in New York on 23 September:

It is a great honour to welcome you to the Secretariat on this special occasion.

In 2007, the United Nations commemorated the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.  The anniversary led to the launch of an initiative by the members of the Caribbean Community and the African Union to erect a permanent memorial to honour the victims of slavery and the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade.  The initiative was embraced by all United Nations Member States, and led to the adoption of a General Assembly resolution calling for the establishment of a permanent memorial here at United Nations Headquarters.

The memorial will acknowledge the struggle of the millions of Africans who, over the course of four centuries, were violently removed from their homelands, ruthlessly abused and robbed of their dignity.

The United Nations Charter — at its core — opposes racism and upholds equality.  The United Nations stands for respect of the dignity of every individual.  It is therefore fitting that the memorial be placed on United Nations grounds as a symbol of the universal recognition of a tragedy that befell Africans and people of African descent.

The memorial will serve as a reminder of the bravery of those slaves, abolitionists and unsung heroes who managed to rise up against an oppressive system, fight for their freedom and end the practice.  Moreover, it is hoped that the memorial will lead to a greater recognition of the contributions that slaves and their descendants have made in their societies.

By breaking the silence that has covered this bleak period of history, and by honouring the victims, the memorial will also serve as a call to action to ensure that this tragedy is never repeated.  And by teaching future generations to remember, we work to address the lingering consequences of slavery.  The United Nations educational outreach programme on the transatlantic slave trade and slavery and the permanent memorial are complementary.

Today we are happy to have reached the end of the judging process for the selection of the winning design for the permanent memorial.  The slave trade is etched into the collective memory of humankind.  As we admire the winning design, let us look forward to the day when the memorial takes its rightful place here at the United Nations.

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For information media • not an official record