General Assembly Endorses Initiative of Member States to Erect, at Headquarters, Permanent Memorial Acknowledging Victims of Slavery, Transatlantic Slave Trade
General Assembly Endorses Initiative of Member States to Erect, at Headquarters, Permanent Memorial Acknowledging Victims of Slavery, Transatlantic Slave Trade
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
General Assembly Endorses Initiative of Member States to Erect, at Headquarters,
Permanent Memorial Acknowledging Victims of Slavery, Transatlantic Slave Trade
Adopts Texts on Global Health and Foreign Policy, Culture of Peace,
Fills Vacancies on Peacebuilding Commission Organizational Committee
The General Assembly today, recommitting itself to honouring the victims of what several delegates called “the most tragic chapter in human history”, adopted a resolution endorsing the construction at United Nations Headquarters of a permanent memorial to those who had suffered under the yoke of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade system.
By the terms of that consensus text, the Assembly stressed the importance of educating and informing current and future generations about the causes, consequences and lessons of slavery, and requested the Secretary-General to continue organizing activities related to the commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which is held annually on 25 March.
Speaking earlier during the Assembly’s corresponding debate, several delegates added that adopting the resolution, and in turn completing the permanent memorial, were the “least the United Nations could do” to honour those who forcibly became part of the global African Diaspora.
Moreover, said the representative of Guyana, who introduced the resolution on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the memorial would offer current and future generations the opportunity to contemplate and reflect on the horrors and indignity of the ignoble system of slavery. It would also serve as a source of inspiration, a symbol of the indomitable spirit of human beings and their capacity to triumph over the worst forms of oppression and bigotry.
The permanent memorial, first called for in General Assembly resolution 62/122, was slated to be completed by the end of 2012, and would be erected in a place of prominence at United Nations Headquarters in New York. An international competition to select its design was launched in September, and a Trust Fund was established to support its construction. Numerous delegations today stressed the importance of contributing to that Fund, which to date had raised over $1 million of the estimated $4.5 million needed to complete the project.
“We are magnanimous enough to forgive, but human enough not to forget,” said the representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the African Group of States. The transatlantic slave trade had torn millions of Africans from their homes, “dragged them in chains to the Americas and sold them as slaves”. Its most salient outcome, he stressed, was the dehumanization of people of African descent, which led to a disturbing legacy of racism and racial discrimination in many countries.
Referring to the annual International Day to commemorate victims of the slave trade, he said that event recognized the dearth of inquiry into the experience of enslaved Africans, as well as a continuing gap in literature regarding their individual and collective experiences. More efforts were needed to promote research, education and outreach programmes to fill that gap, he emphasized, adding that it was “unacceptable” to continue to sweep the identities and contributions of enslaved Africans under the carpet.
The representative of Jamaica, which chairs the Permanent Memorial Committee, said that while some of the gravest historical wrongs against humankind had been addressed, others had not. Slavery and the transatlantic slave trade had not yet met the threshold of acknowledgement and redemption, which served as rationale for continued action at the United Nations. As the theme for the permanent memorial stated, he said, we are “acknowledging the tragedy, considering the legacy, lest we forget”.
The representative of Israel agreed that the memorial was of vital importance, and stressed that today’s resolution recalled the legacy of 30 million human stories - the vast majority of them untold. The need for that memorial was clear, she said: It would complement the work of the Organization’s existing outreach programme and provide a reminder to all delegates and visitors of the slave trade’s history and lessons. Only through education, remembrance and constant vigilance could the tragedies of the past serve as clear lessons for the future, and the United Nations had a duty to take up that cause.
Meanwhile, some speakers pointed out that the unjust legacy of slavery was still alive and well in the social life of many countries. The representative of Cuba, stressing that the people of his country were proud of their heritage - which included both Spanish and African blood – said that Africans would remain exploited as long as the “unsustainable and unjust” consumption patterns continued to exclude the majority of people around the world. Former colonial metropolises must “honour their debt” to slaves; it was impossible for them to “wash their hands of the past” and of their responsibilities in that regard.
Moreover, he said, if the current system was not checked, Africa would continue to finance the “extravagance” of wealthy developed countries, while commitments to development on the African continent were not honoured. Others added that, though slavery had long since been abolished in Latin America and the Caribbean, people of African descent living in that region continued to disproportionately face extreme poverty, unemployment and other challenges.
Also today, the Assembly, acting again by consensus, adopted a resolution highlighting the important nexus of global health and foreign policy. Introducing that resolution, the representative of Brazil said the text contained recommendations on improving the coordination, coherence and effectiveness of governance for global health, as well as on addressing the social determinations of health. There were many potential synergies between actions to address the world’s greatest problems, including climate change and communicable and non-communicable diseases.
In that context, she said, the foreign policy and global health initiative was created with a commitment to applying a “health lens” to foreign policy processes and actions. It would also look at new ways in which foreign policy could add value to and support global health outcomes. There was further need to explore and understand those interlinkages, which should also be reinforced with a view towards promoting global health and social and economic development, reducing inequality and making globalization work for all.
During the ensuing brief discussion, some delegates addressed particular facets of global health, including the HIV/AIDS epidemic – whose threat still loomed over millions of vulnerable people around the world – and non-communicable diseases. Others described concrete actions that their countries had taken to improve health outcomes both nationally and internationally.
In that respect, the representative of Japan said that while there was little time remaining until the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, many vital targets still needed to be tackled, including those on maternal health, and water and sanitation. There was a need to tackle global health issues, including infectious diseases, from the point of human security, which ensured a focus on individuals. It was also important to continue to deepen the discussion on global health and foreign policy. Japan would participate actively in such talks, he said.
In other business today, the Assembly adopted a broad-based text on a “Culture of Peace”, and decided to elect Fiji to one of two remaining vacancies on the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to begin its term on 1 January 2012. The two slots, which were allocated to the Asia-Pacific States, remained unfilled following the election of 27 States as members of that body on 17 November 2011 (see Press Release GA/11175). The Assembly further decided to hold elections for the one remaining vacancy upon notification by interested members of that region.
Turning to the election of two members of the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission, the Assembly decided to appoint Croatia from among the Eastern European States and El Salvador from among the Latin American States. Those States would serve renewable terms of two years beginning on 1 January 2012.
Finally, considering the appointment of two vacant seats for the Asia-Pacific States and one vacant seat for the Latin American States on the Committee on Conferences, the Assembly took note of the appointment of the Philippines to one of the Asia-Pacific seats. That country would serve a term of three years beginning on 1 January 2012. Regarding the two remaining seats, the Vice President urged the regional groups to submit their candidatures as soon as possible.
Also participating in the debate on the commemoration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade were the representatives of Australia, Brazil, United States, Luxembourg and India.
Speaking on global health and public policy were the representatives of Australia, Lebanon (on behalf of the Asia-Pacific States) and Israel.
The resolution on a “Culture of Peace” was introduced by the representative of Bangladesh.
After action on the resolution on the “permanent memorial”, the representative of Iran made a statement in explanation of position, and after adoption of the text on a “Culture of Peace”, the representative of the Russian Federation made a general statement.
The Assembly will reconvene at 3:00 p.m. tomorrow to elect one member of the International Court of Justice.
The Assembly convened today to consider several topics: the follow-up to the commemoration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the transatlantic slave trade; global health and foreign policy; and a culture of peace. It was also expected to elect or appoint members of various subsidiary bodies.
For its consideration of the first item, the Assembly had before it a report of the Secretary-General (document A/66/162) entitled, “Permanent memorial to and remembrance of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade: status of the United Nations Trust Fund for Partnerships – Permanent Memorial”. The report states that, as at 30 June 2011, the Fund had recorded a total of $990,700 in income, comprising voluntary contributions from Member States amounting to $944,700, private donations totalling $28,000 and accrued interest in the amount of $18,000.
Also for its consideration of the agenda item relating to the slave trade commemoration follow-up, the Assembly had before it a second report of the Secretary-General (document A/66/382) entitled, “Programme of educational outreach on the transatlantic slave trade and slavery”. Submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 65/239 (2010), the report outlined the related activities of the Department of Public Information. In close collaboration with States members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Group, the department had organized the fourth annual observance on 25 March 2011 of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
The commemoration’s 2011 theme, “The Living Legacy of 30 Million Untold Stories”, recalled the estimated 30 million Africans who were uprooted by the system of slavery and whose many stories under that system have not been told fully. The theme emphasized the importance of a more constructive portrayal in history and literature of the diverse skills which enslaved Africans brought to the homelands they were forced to adopt, and which were indispensable contributions to the economic foundation of the countries in the Americas and of the world economy of the eighteenth century.
The outreach and awareness strategy of the Department of Public Information utilized its network of information centres to disseminate the message of the observance internationally, and promoted partnership activities with civil society organizations committed to building awareness of the dangers of racism and racial discrimination, as well as the continuing legacy of slavery and the slave trade.
The Assembly was also slated to consider a draft resolution (document A/66/L.25) on the permanent memorial to and remembrance of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. By that resolution, the Assembly, endorsing the initiative to erect a permanent memorial at a place of prominence at United Nations Headquarters, would request the Secretary-General to organize a series of annual activities related to the commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. That would include a commemorative meeting of the General Assembly. It would further request the Department of Public Information to continue to take appropriate steps to enhance world public awareness on that issue, and would request both the Secretary-General and the United Nations Office for Partnerships to report on that programme of educational outreach – including on actions taken by Member States – at its sixty-seventh session.
For its consideration of global health and foreign policy, the Assembly had before it a note by the Secretary-General (document A/66/497) by which he transmitted a report prepared by the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) pursuant to resolution 65/95 (2010). The report describes efforts taken by the international community in response to recommendations contained in General Assembly resolution 65/95 (2010) on global health and foreign policy, in which the Assembly further supported the close relationship and interdependence of global health and foreign policy with a view to strengthening coordination and coherence among these policy areas.
It presents examples of how Governments and the multilateral system were working with a number of sectors to address health issues in order to influence better health outcomes, and explores the extent to which governance and priority setting of non-health sectors are supporting global health, including identifying new opportunities. The conclusions acknowledge the continuing need for the foreign policy community to address global health issues, the need for greater and more in-depth understanding of this relationship and the importance of coherence between health and foreign policies within Member States in order to implement international accords.
There had been increasing attention paid to “whole of Government” responses, the report notes, as well as to recognition of shared public health risks and responsibilities, and mutual accountability. Specific recommendations are included related to social determinants of health. In 2011, the report notes, the landmark High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases and the High-level Meeting on HIV/AIDS placed the need to take multi-sectoral actions to address risk factors for diseases and health responses involving prevention, treatment and the underlying health system, high on the international agenda. Responses required policy and technical interventions within all sectors to effectively contain and treat these major diseases and conditions affecting human health.
The Assembly also had before it a draft resolution on “global health and foreign policy” (document A/66/L.24), by which it would call for more attention to health as an important cross-cutting policy issue in the international agenda. Further by its terms, the Assembly would invite Member States to adopt a multi-sectoral approach to health-related issues, while taking into account the social determinants of health and with a view towards reducing health inequalities and enabling sustainable development. It would urge Member States to intensify efforts to address the social determinants of exposure to environmental hazards and would call for more attention to health-related issues in the global environmental agenda.
By adopting the draft text, the Assembly would urge Member States to promote at all levels the integration of health concerns, including of people living in vulnerable situations, into strategies, policies and programmes for poverty reduction and sustainable development. It would stress the need to strengthen national monitoring mechanisms for measuring the impacts of the environment on health, identifying emerging risks and evaluating the progress made and to strengthen national risk assessment and early warning mechanisms for identifying, assessing and addressing health vulnerabilities posed by environmental degradation.
With regard to health and natural disasters, the Assembly would express grave concern at the increasing number of people affected by natural disasters and would stress the need to address their health needs. Additionally, it would recognize the primary role of national and local authorities in responding to disasters and the leading role of the WHO, as the lead of the Global Health Cluster, in the provision of humanitarian assistance by the United Nations system. It would encourage Member States to strengthen all health emergency and disaster risk-management programmes, and would urge them to intensify efforts to address the social determinants of vulnerabilities to disasters and their current and projected consequences on health. It would also urge Member States to consider health issues in the formulation of their foreign policy.
Also by that text, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to give high priority to generating and collecting comparable and reliable data on the interlinkages between health and environment, and health and natural disasters, and to submit to it, at its sixty-seventh session, a report that reflects on those interlinkages and contains recommendations for improving the management of health risks arising from environmental disasters.
Finally, for its consideration of the agenda item on a culture of peace, the Assembly had before it a draft resolution entitled, “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (document A/66/L.23), which were adopted by the General Assembly in 1999. By the text, the Assembly would invite Member States to continue to place greater emphasis on and expand their activities promoting a culture of peace; it would further invite the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to consider the feasibility of creating a special fund to cater to the country-specific projects for the promotion of that culture. It would also encourage civil society and non-governmental organizations to further strengthen their efforts to promote a culture of peace, among others, by adopting their own programmes of activities to complement those of other Member States, the United Nations system and other organizations in line with the Declaration and Programme of Action.
By the terms of the resolution, the Assembly would invite the Secretary-General to explore mechanisms and strategies for the implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action and to initiate outreach efforts to increase global awareness of the Programme of Action and its eight areas of action aimed at their implementation. It would request the Secretary-General to submit to it, at its sixty-seventh session, a report on actions undertaken to implement the present resolution and on heightened activities to implement the Programme of Action and to promote a culture of peace and non-violence.
Anniversary of Abolition of Transatlantic Slave Trade
Introducing the draft resolution on the permanent memorial to and remembrance of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade (document A/66/L.25), GEORGE TALBOT (Guyana), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the initiative of the Caribbean delegation, along with the African Group, to erect a memorial at Headquarters had responded to the need to honour, at a global level, “the victims of this most tragic chapter in human history.” Once completed, the memorial would offer current and future generations the opportunity to contemplate and reflect on the horrors and indignity of the ignoble system of slavery. It would also serve as a source of inspiration, a symbol of the indomitable spirit of human beings and their capacity to triumph over the worst forms of oppression and bigotry.
“With that in mind, we reaffirm our commitment to the erection of a permanent memorial in a place of prominence at United Nations Headquarters, that is accessible to delegates, United Nations staff and visitors,” he said. It was well established that the inhuman system which had led to the forced removal of millions of people over centuries from Africa to the Caribbean, the Americas and Europe, indeed the largest forced displacement of human beings in history, had contributed today to continued economic underdevelopment, social inequalities, racial discrimination and prejudice. The current resolution before delegations would have the Assembly endorse the initiative to erect the memorial and to take into account new developments, such as the conclusion of the tripartite Memorandum of Understanding, and welcome the recent launch of the international design competition.
OMBENI SEFUE (United Republic of Tanzania), speaking on behalf of the African Group, called for the outstanding physical and spiritual resilience of people of African descent, who for centuries endured and survived all manner of adversity, injustice, oppression, exploitation, discrimination and suffering, to be celebrated. “We are magnanimous enough to forgive, but human enough not to forget,” he said of the transatlantic slave trade, which tore millions of Africans from their homes, dragged them in chains to the Americas and sold them as slaves. Its most salient outcome, he stressed, was the dehumanization of people of African descent, which led to a disturbing legacy of racism and racial discrimination in many countries.
Recalling that the United Nations observed the annual International Day to commemorate victims of the slave trade earlier this year, he said that event recognized the dearth of inquiry into the experience of enslaved Africans and recognized a continuing gap in the literature regarding their individual and collective experiences. While it was bad enough to enslave Africans, it was unacceptable to sweep their identities and contributions under the carpet. More efforts were needed to promote research, education and outreach programmes to fill that gap. He praised the work of the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator (UNSECOORD) and the Department of Public Information in that regard, while also noting the erection of a permanent memorial and remembrance of the victims of slavery and the slave trade were an important component of raising awareness. He further recognized the importance and necessity of sustained voluntary contributions towards the permanent memorial.
RAYMOND O. WOLFE (Jamaica), aligning with CARICOM and the African Group, said the question continued to be asked – why did the States involved continue to feel the need to remind the world about this tragic past when there was a need to look to the future and contemporary forms of slavery. Yet, in the words of Jamaican singer Bob Marley, “in this great future, we can’t forget the past”. While some of the gravest historical wrongs against humankind had been addressed, others had not. Slavery and the transatlantic slave trade had not yet met the threshold of acknowledgement and redemption. That was the rationale for continued action at the United Nations, including to ensure that a lasting tribute be erected on its grounds. As the theme for the permanent memorial stated, we are “acknowledging the tragedy, considering the legacy, lest we forget…”
He expressed appreciation for the programme of education and outreach on the transatlantic slave trade and slavery for 2011, organized by the Department of Public Information (DPI). He encouraged that Department to ensure that the annual commemorative activities were a fitting and solemn tribute to slavery’s victims. Noting that Belgium, Oman, Finland, Guyana, Costa Rica, Slovenia, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Israel and Trinidad and Tobago had contributed to the Permanent Memorial Trust Fund, he said the total amount given to date was $1.02 million.
As Chair of the Permanent Memorial Committee, he noted the launch this year of a dedicated website for that initiative: www.unslaverymemorial.org. A Facebook presence had also been set up and R&B singer Melba Moore had been appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador. Consultation had led to the signing of a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding allowing UNESCO to undertake phase one of the international design competition that was launched on 30 September. Other efforts focused on its fundraising drive, he added.
OSCAR LEÓN GONZÁLEZ ( Cuba) said that Cubans were proud of their heritage, which included both Spanish and Africans. “The slave trade left a very clear trail,” he said, referring to the Caribbean community. Indeed, that region’s cultural wealth and singularity were the result of the wisdom, languages, culture, music and verbal spirit of the slaves that were brought there, and its spirit was imbued with the courage and valour of those who had struggled against their oppression.
Today, he continued, Africans would remain exploited as long as the “unsustainable and unjust” consumption patterns continued to exclude the majority of people around the world. Former colonial metropolises must “honour their debt” to slaves; it was impossible for them to “wash their hands of the past” and of their responsibilities in that regard. Moreover, if the current system continued, Africa would continue to finance the “extravagance” of wealthy developed countries, while commitments to development on the African continent were not honoured. For its part, Cuba had established the first museum dedicated to the Slave Route in the Americas, he said. It recognized the importance of organizing annual activities under the umbrella of the United Nations and of the construction of the permanent memorial. That was “the least the United Nations could do” to honour the past and those who had suffered, he said.
GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) said the transatlantic slave trade had forcibly removed tens of millions of Africans from their communities and separated them from their families. Millions died while being transported and uncounted others while resisting the slavers. What in Swahili was known as the “Maafa – the great disaster” – was for more than 400 years the institutionalized face of the very worst kind of racism and an almost unimaginable contempt for human life. “We need to recognize the dark side of our own history and bring it into the light,” he said, stressing that the permanent memorial would be a lasting tribute to all those who had died and suffered through the slave trade.
“It will also be a physical symbol of our common obligation to remember; and acknowledge that the fight against such savagery is really never won,” he said, noting that racism always threatened and, through human trafficking, perhaps some 26 million more people were enslaved today. Educating current and future generations about the transatlantic slave trade and its lasting consequences was essential. The resolution stressed that, and Australia, he continued, had placed emphasis on the consequences of racism and prejudice in its school curriculums. Indeed, his country had seen the mistreatment of the first Australians for too long. The historic 2008 Apology to Australia’s Indigenous people had been a dramatic acknowledgement “of the many wrongs our own community has suffered”. Finally, he announced that Australia was providing a further contribution, of some $150,000, to support the permanent memorial.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI ( Brazil) said that, as an early supporter of the permanent memorial initiative and as a repeated co-sponsor of the annual draft before the Assembly, Brazil hoped that the General Assembly would, through those actions, demonstrate its commitment to adequately honour the victims of slavery and the slave trade. As the Brazilian demographic census of 2010 had indicated, more than half of the Brazilian population had identified itself as African descended. Brazil took great pride in that legacy, which marked its society and culture in many different ways. “It is an essential part of our historic formation and of our national identity,” she stressed. That recognition had translated into a number of concrete actions. Since 2003, the Government had opened 19 new embassies in Africa and several more in CARICOM States. Commercial activity with both regions had increased, and Africa was now Brazil’s fourth largest trade partner. Among other activities, the country had also held a Brazil-CARICOM Summit in 2010, and was deeply engaged in the stabilization and development of Haiti, where it led the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
Although Brazil had formally abolished slavery 123 years ago, its enduring impact could still be felt in many aspects of its social life. People of African descent continued to disproportionately face extreme poverty, unemployment and other challenges. In that context, Brazil, alongside the Ibero-American General Secretariat, had organized a conference in Salvador, Bahia; the resulting “Declaration of Salvador” had decided to establish a Statistical Data Observatory for People of African Descent, to create a Fund for People of African Descent, and to establish a “Decade for People of African Descent in Latin America and the Caribbean”. “Only by building cultures together and creating a true atmosphere of tolerance and mutual understanding will it be possible for the international community to fight the persistent scourge of racism and racial discrimination,” she concluded.
KENDRICK MEEK ( United States) described a wide number of programmes through which his Government had commemorated the two-hundredth anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The United States also remained committed to promoting outreach and education to raise awareness about the slave trade and its consequences, as part of its effort to reduce prejudice and inequalities wherever they existed. He said that his Government was also pressing ahead with initiatives to tackle modern forms of racism and slavery. The United States was also honouring the historic and modern-day contributions of African Americans and persons of African descent, those who had fought for freedom during the Civil War, those who had contributed to the enrichment of the country throughout history, and those who were enhancing ordinary life in the United States today. The United States looked forward to expanding its partnerships to tackle all aspects of slavery, including its modern forms, in the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
HAIM WAXMAN ( Israel) recalled Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel’s statement that, “If anything can, it is memory that will save humanity… hope without memory is like memory without hope.” Reaffirming memory’s vital importance, he said today’s resolution recalled the legacy of 30 million stories, the vast majority of them untold. It was among the stories of those who suffered unimaginable cruelty and persecution that the world found hope. The Jewish people knew well the joys of freedom and the pain of persecution. This was why Israel today joined hands with the nations of the world in laying the foundation for a permanent memorial at the United Nations to honour the victims of the transatlantic slave trade. It had recently contributed $20,000 to support the memorial’s construction. Indeed, the need for that memorial was clear: It would complement the work of the Organization’s existing outreach programme and provide a reminder to all delegates and visitors of the slave trade’s history and lessons. Only through education, remembrance and constant vigilance could the tragedies of the past serve as clear lessons for the future, and the United Nations had a duty to take up that cause, he emphasized.
OLIVIER MAES ( Luxembourg) paid tribute to all Member States of CARICOM and the African Group for their key role in promoting the permanent memorial. The transatlantic slave trade was undoubtedly one of history’s darkest chapters and it should not be ignored. From a political and moral point of view, that human tragedy, which lasted several centuries, must be duly commemorated. It must also permeate the world’s collective conscience, so the current and future generations could draw the right lesson and ensure it never happened again. For that reason, Luxembourg was cosponsoring the draft resolution and welcomed the consensus the text enjoyed. It had regularly contributed for years to the Trust Fund and encouraged all Member States to demonstrate tangible support to the permanent memorial. His delegation also welcomed the launch of the international design competition. Because it was also imperative that that period of history continued to be studied in depth, adequate resources must be made available to researchers.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said the slave trade was one of the most abhorrent chapters in the history of mankind and the work of the United Nations could never be completed until the Organization condemned the transatlantic slave trade “emphatically and without reservation”. It was also necessary that the international community took upon itself to never let such crimes ever take place again. “Education has a critical role in creating awareness amongst present and future generations about the history, causes and impact of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade,” he continued, adding that India supported the various activities and programmes being carried out by the Department of Public Information to commemorate the International Day of Remembrance, annually on 25 March.
While he announced that India, with a contribution of some $260,000, was now the lead contributor to the Trust Fund for the permanent memorial, he said that it had collected just over $1 million of the estimated $4.5 million that was needed and “the international community must come forward and contribute”. “The international community cannot let the idea of this memorial just remain on the drawing board,” he said, underscoring his delegation’s firm belief that there must be a genuine acceptance of the fact that the horrible crimes associated with slavery occurred, along with the sincere repentance for their commission. India, therefore, strongly urged all countries, and especially those that had benefited from the slave trade, to come forward and contribute to the memorial project.
The Assembly then adopted without vote the resolution on the permanent memorial to and remembrance of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade (document A/66/L.25).
Introduction of Draft Resolution on Global Health and Foreign Policy
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil), introducing the draft resolution entitled, “Global Health and Foreign Policy” (document A/66/L.24), on behalf of the members of the Foreign Policy and Global Health Initiative, said that the Secretary-General’s report contained important recommendations on improving the coordination, coherence and effectiveness of governance for global health, as well as on addressing the social determinations of health. The report concluded that health and foreign policy objectives were inextricably linked, as highlighted in the Oslo Declaration of 2007, and recognized that the potential synergy of actions to address the world’s greatest problems – including climate change and communicable and non-communicable diseases – offered major opportunities for health and development.
The Foreign Policy and Global Health Initiative was created with a commitment to applying a “health lens” to foreign policy processes and actions, she said. It would also look at new ways in which foreign policy could add value to and support global health outcomes. There was a further need to explore and understand those interlinkages, which should also be reinforced with a view towards promoting global health and social and economic development, reducing inequality and making globalization work for all. The draft also served as a contribution to the preparatory process of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (“ Rio+20”), focusing on two themes: health and the environment and health and natural disasters.
GARY QUINLAN ( Australia) said that 2011 had been a particularly important year for the United Nations in advancing international health policy and establishing vital goals and targets, in particular with regards to HIV/AIDS and non-communicable diseases. The resolution before the Assembly put a very necessary spotlight on the interlinkages between health and the environment, and health and natural disasters, he said. Addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic, he said that Australia had co-chaired negotiations which had led to the adoption of the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, in which the international community had, for the first time, set “ambitious, time-bound prevention and treatment targets”. An enormous amount had already been done to control the worst of that epidemic, he said, “but it is nowhere near over”; in fact, over 34 million people remained infected and there had been 2.7 million new infections last year, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. For every new person on treatment, two more were infected.
In that context, the Political Declaration pledged to reduce by 50 per cent – by 2015 – sexual transmission, transmission among people who injected drugs and tuberculosis in people living with HIV. It pledged to eliminate mother-to-child transmission, and to double anti-retroviral treatment to 15 million people. It also promised to close the AIDS resource gap by 2015 and reach annual investment of $22-24 billion in low and middle-income countries. “It is indisputably within our grasp to produce a new generation free of HIV/AIDS,” he continued, “but we will not do so without the will – and the conscience – to do so”. Australia had committed itself to that goal, providing $152 million this year alone, including in its nearest neighbours in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. It would also provide around $4 billion on health assistance in developing countries over the next five years. The aim must continue to be to transform the global response to HIV/AIDS, he said. “It is within our reach to do this. And we simply must do so,” he said.
NAWAF SALAM (Lebanon), speaking on behalf of the Asia-Pacific Group, said his delegation had closely followed the negotiations on the draft text before the Assembly and appreciated the efforts of the core group of sponsors for their efforts and leadership. Indeed, the resolution’s extremely timely focus on such sub-topics as health and the environment and health and natural disasters, was especially welcomed, as it encouraged concrete actions in those areas, including through strengthening capacity-building, bolstering national health care systems and enhancing technology sharing.
The resolution also clearly reiterated that the achievement of globally agreed health goals could not be delinked from the promotion and protection of human rights, peace and security, and sustainable development. He also noted that over the past year the Assembly had adopted two historic documents; the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases. Those texts had emphasized the importance of achieving global health goals and the Assembly’s political commitment to playing a role in that process.
SHULAMIT YONA DAVIDOVICH ( Israel) said that every country had a responsibility to integrate the goals and objectives of global health into their foreign policy. “These considerations must move to the forefront of the international agenda,” she stressed, adding that they were at the very core of the United Nations’ mission. Those challenges must be faced together, she added, noting that “diseases do not discriminate”. They knew no international borders, and a health crisis in one country could easily spread to another. Moreover, she said, “many of the greatest health issues that we face today are global in scope, and call for global responses.”
Promoting good health had always been a priority for Israel, which had pioneered the practice of universal health care and provided health training to developing countries. Describing several recent examples in that regard, she said that, in partnership with the Government of Haiti, Israel had constructed an emergency trauma unit in that country’s Cap-Haitiën neighbourhood. It was closely engaged in reducing child mortality and improving maternal health in Ghana, and, in 2012, it would establish a Dialysis Unit in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Additionally, Israel had sponsored eye clinics for more than 50 years in countries where health facilities were inadequate. Israeli non-governmental organizations, for their part, were also active in improving the health of people around the world; she cited, in that respect, one organization that was treating children suffering from rheumatic and congenital heart disease. Thousands of children were brought to that programme from all four corners of the world, she added, with a majority coming from the Middle East.
KATSUHIKO TAKAHASHI ( Japan) said that while there was little time remaining until the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, many vital targets still needed to be tackled, including those on maternal health and water and sanitation. Japan was doing its part and had made the Millennium health targets one of the main pillars of its diplomatic policy. For example, the Japanese Government had organized a follow-up meeting on the status of the Goals in June, as well as a ministerial-level side event on the topic during the general debate in September. One of the key topics during those meetings had been the wider global health agenda and emerging issues, such as tackling non-communicable diseases and strengthening health systems.
In addition, Japan had decided to provide some 5 billion yen to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to support polio immunization in Pakistan. Turning to broader issues, he said the Secretary-General’s report had stressed the need to tackle global health issues, including infectious diseases, from the point of view of human security, which ensured a focus on individuals. It was also important to continue to deepen the discussion on global health and foreign policy, and Japan would participate actively in such talks.
The Assembly then adopted without vote the resolution on global health and foreign policy (document A/66/L.24).
Speaking after action, the representative of Iran said that promoting health and ensuring the highest attainable standard of health for all were among the vital issues that deserved more international attention. Yet, his delegation could not fully welcome a text which contained issues that contradicted Iran’s traditional social and religious values. Therefore, Iran dissociated itself from paragraph 4 of the resolution just adopted.
Introduction of Draft Resolution on a Culture of Peace
ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh), introducing the draft resolution entitled “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” (resolution A/66/L.23), quoted Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who had said during the Assembly’s general debate, “I believe that peace is the best basis for development”. In that context, the culture of peace was a set of values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life. It rejected violence and promoted tolerance and dialogue between different groups, as well as a sense of respect for diversity. That world order was conducive to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other development targets, he said. It was, therefore, important to continue such dialogue among civilizations. “We should put up efforts to transform our mindset to build a peaceful world,” he stressed.
The resolution before the Assembly today would advance the culture of peace in several key areas, including the dissemination of information thereon. It asked the Department of Public Information to make special efforts in that regard, and called on UNESCO and the Peacebuilding Commission, as well as other United Nations bodies, to coordinate their work and to promote the Programme of Action worldwide. Academics, media, youth and children should also be involved. “There has been no magic change” in this year’s resolution, he said, nonetheless describing several minor additions to the text. Bangladesh, for its part, was committed to the Programme of Action, and demonstrated that commitment by providing peacekeepers in difficult situations around the world. Additionally, as a member of the Peacebuilding Commission, it also believed that the culture of peace held the key to building peace in post-conflict societies. The fact that the resolution had been adopted by consensus each year since its inception was encouraging, he said.
The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution on “Follow-up to the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace” by consensus.
Speaking after action, the representative of the Russian Federation said his delegation had traditionally been a co-sponsor of the resolution just adopted. Efforts to strengthen a culture of peace were important for all cultures and societies, and the Russian Federation believed that there was an increasing need to provide doctrines that promoted human rights and fundamental freedoms of all members of humankind, without distinction. It had presented a relevant resolution to the Human Rights Council on “promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind”. Indeed, there could not be a divide among “Western”, “Asian” or “African” values; the moral fibre of modern life and traditional human values bound all societies together.
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