– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly

21 November 2018

Commemoration of the abolition of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade

Excellencies,

The slavery and the transatlantic slave trade between the XVI and the XIX century forced millions of people to abandon their homes, their towns and their African lands to submit to the regime of exploitation that was based on the accumulation of wealth at the expense of human life and dignity. The effects of that great tragedy still remain.

This General Assembly must continue to contribute to a better understanding of the causes and consequences of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade to prevent any form of subjugation or discrimination from ever being repeated in our history.

The designation of March the 25th as the “International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade” has contributed to honor the memory of the victims of slavery and has served to alert us from the dangers of racism.

Regrettably, racial discrimination is not a matter of the past. We must maximize our efforts against racism and against all related forms of discrimination and intolerance.

We must preserve and increase educational and cultural programs and the initiatives that have been implemented in the last three years by the United Nations system, Member States and civil society to raise awareness about slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.

I would like to emphasize that the approval by the General Assembly of the “International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024” has contributed to promote a better understanding of this matter and respect the heritage and culture of persons of African descent and visualize their contributions to the development of societies.

Four centuries of slavery have left permanent marks in the history of humanity. We must acknowledge that history, promote reconciliation and never repeat it.

I congratulate the States that collaborated with the Trust Fund for “The Ark of Return”, that beautiful permanent monument located at our headquarter to honor the victims of slavery.

Excellencies,

One of the best ways to honor the victims of slavery is to acknowledge the complex realities that are faced by their descendants in the regions that obtained their wealth by means of their work and cultural diversity.

We must preserve that cultural richness but we must fight against the unfair social stratification that in many countries outlived the end of the colonial era. We will honor the victims of slavery by creating inclusive and fairer societies, by fighting and eradicating poverty and inequality.

The Ark reminds us about the past, but it also reminds us of the present.

Today, there are still 40 million people that are victims of modern forms of slavery.

Goal 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, calls States to adopt effective and immediate measures to end modern slavery.

Let us defeat, once and for all, discrimination and inequality: the remains of the darkest time of humanity and let us move forward in the fulfillment of the sustainable development goals as the greatest tribute to present and past victims of slavery, discrimination and exclusion.  

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

Undoubtedly, the best way to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, next December, will be to renew our commitments to eradicate slavery in all its forms; rejecting racism and racial prejudice; and continue to work to instill present and future generations in the dangers of tolerating exploitation and inequalities.

Let us defeat, once and for all, discrimination and inequality: the remains of the darkest time of humanity and let us move forward in the fulfillment of the sustainable development goals as the greatest tribute to present and past victims of slavery, discrimination and exclusion.

Thank you.