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Message of the President of the United Nations General Assembly for 2020

On the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade we commit to confronting slavery’s legacy of racism, together.

It is regrettable that as a result of the continuing evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commemorative Meeting on the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade has had to be postponed. The COVID-19 pandemic reinforces the fact that we have a duty to open our minds to the lived experiences of others.

Today we remember the 15 million Africans that were forcibly removed from their homelands. These people were subjected to heinous cruelty and robbed of their dignity, freedom, and identities.

The transatlantic slave trade seeded deep inequalities within societies. Economies prospered at a great human cost: entire industries were built upon the suffering of fellow human beings. A minority amassed tremendous wealth and power whilst those who toiled were denied their most basic human rights.

Slavery ended many lives and stole the future of successive generations. The descendants of those who were enslaved continue to face enduring social and economic inequality, intolerance, prejudice, racism, and discrimination.

We must take collective action to reaffirm our commitment to implement the Durban Declaration of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

Today, I call on all Member States to recognise the contributions made by people of African descent and pay tribute to their resilience. Throughout this Decade for People of African Descent, I urge Member States to adopt, implement and strengthen policies and programmes which combat hate speech, xenophobia, racism and racial discrimination. We need to move beyond tolerance, towards an environment of intercultural understanding.

As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, we must take collective action to reduce inequalities, eliminate racial discrimination, and end modern slavery. Today 40 million people are trapped in modern slavery. Children make up one quarter of these victims, while 71% of those enslaved are women. The onus is upon every Member State to eradicate trafficking, forced labour, servitude and slavery. None of us will be truly free whilst these people suffer.

We simply cannot be indifferent to injustice. It is incumbent upon each of us to uphold the human rights of everyone, everywhere.


Tijjani Muhammad-Bande


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