|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Signing of Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding
to Launch Design Competition for Permanent Slavery Memorial
Jamaica’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations announced at Headquarters today the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding to launch a worldwide design competition for the permanent memorial that would be placed at the United Nations to honour the memory of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.
“People have been asking when this project is going to get a major lift-off, and now we have that,” Raymond Wolfe said at a press conference immediately after the signing ceremony for the Memorandum of Understanding between the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP) and the Permanent Committee created to manage the overall project and provide oversight of the Trust Fund for the Memorial’s construction.
Mr. Wolfe, who chairs the Permanent Committee, said four years of hard work to get the project up and running had led to the present historic moment, as he hailed UNESCO’s dedication to ending the silence around slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. Through its Slave Route Project and a host of other innovative cultural outreach and education initiatives, the agency was “uniquely qualified” to launch the international design competition, he said.
Accompanying Mr. Wolfe, who represented the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), were Tété Antonio, representing the Observer delegation of the African Union to the United Nations; Rochelle Roca-Hachem of UNESCO’s New York Office; and Kris V. Krishnan of UNOP, which manages the Trust Fund for the overall project. All the speakers welcomed the partnership and sketched out their respective roles in the expected August launch of the design competition. UNESCO would handle the first phase, which would entail collecting applications and compiling a list of 16 designs.
Mr. Wolfe said the designs would then be submitted to an international jury of renowned artists, designers, architects, culture experts and academics who would choose seven finalists to undergo an interview process. The final selection, to take place at New York Headquarters, would be chosen through a simple-majority vote by the international jury, he said, adding that the aim was to receive a broad range of designs from around the world, and to ensure as transparent a process as possible.
He urged the media to spread the word about the design competition and the Trust Fund that would finance the permanent memorial’s installation. Talks on the particulars were continuing between the Permanent Committee and the office in charge of the Capital Master Plan renovation currently under way at Headquarters, with a view to making the Memorial as interactive as possible, he said. It must evoke the impact of the slave trade, honour the victims and heroes of slavery and embody the spirit of “never again”, not only to break the silence surrounding the tragedy, but also to end the ignorance about the dangers of modern-day racism and bigotry.
Mr. Wolfe emphasized that slavery had impacted all continents and caused the great upheavals that had shaped modern societies. “It is right that we should have this monument,” he said. “The international community has never acknowledged this tragedy [and] the permanent memorial will right that wrong and also represent the principles and values the United Nations stands for.” He said all information on the design competition would be posted shortly on the website dedicated to the permanent memorial — www.unslaverymemorial.org.
Asked about the status of the voluntary Trust Fund, Mr. Krishnan said that, while he was happy to report that nearly $1 million had been donated, the overall goal for the project was $4.5 million, which meant there was some ways to go.
Mr. Wolfe added that some 52 countries had donated to the Fund, noting that India, which had provided some $260,000, and Australia, with more than $100,000 donated thus far, “always helped push us ahead when we felt interest in the project was waning”.
* *** *