26 March 2012

Amid Increasing Bias, There Is Shared Responsibility to Combat Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Says Deputy Secretary-General on Day of Remembrance

26 March 2012
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Amid Increasing Bias, There Is Shared Responsibility to Combat Contemporary


Forms of Slavery, Says Deputy Secretary-General on Day of Remembrance


Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks to the General Assembly on the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 26 March, in New York:

It is a pleasure to join you for this important observance.  Let me offer a special welcome to all our guests, including the performers who will grace this event.  I bring you warm greetings from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who stands with you on this Day, on this cause.

The transatlantic slave trade was a tragedy, because of slavery’s fundamental barbarism and immense scope, and because of its organized, systematic nature.  One set of human beings — the traders, owners and others who participated in and profited from this evil enterprise — elevated themselves above another, assaulting their victims’ very essence.

Let me share with you just a brief snippet of testimony from a former slave.  This testimony has been posted on the United Nations Radio website as part of our information outreach for this Day.  “I can remember”, she said, when “they carried my father away and carried two sisters and one brother, and left me”.  This International Day was established for her — and for the many millions of people whose lives and families were destroyed, and whose dignity was brutally negated.

The United Nations website provides more of what this and other former slaves have had to say about their experience.  Other selections feature scholars and others talking about slavery’s origins, its hideous mechanics, its impact, and its legacy.  I urge you to take advantage of this important resource.

The United Nations will be commemorating the suffering of the victims in another way:  with a permanent memorial to be erected here at United Nations Headquarters.  That memorial will rightly recognize that this tragedy, which had its most horrendous impact on Africans and people of African descent, also disgraced humankind as a whole.

In addition to remembering the crimes of the slave trade, we also use this Day to teach about the causes and consequences of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  We have a shared responsibility to be vigilant about the many contemporary forms of slavery, including debt bondage, trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, forced marriage and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.

New laws, institutions and mindsets have given us better tools for the struggle against these ills.  Yet, we must also acknowledge that bias is on the increase in many parts of the world.  We can still see discriminatory practices gaining political, moral and even legal recognition, including through the platforms of some political parties and organizations, and through the use of modern communication technologies to disseminate ideas based on the notion of racial superiority.

The United Nations remains firmly committed to countering such hateful acts and trends.  This is a matter of principle, in keeping with the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Political Declaration adopted at last year’s High-level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly.  It is also a means to an end, since intolerance and discrimination are among the roots of conflicts and are major obstacles to development.

The theme of this year’s observance, “Honouring the heroes, resisters and survivors”, pays tribute to those who stood up against slavery when the trade was at its height, and those who stand up now to protect against its manifestations today.  On this International Day, let us all reaffirm our commitment to combating racism and to building societies based on justice, equality and solidarity.  Thank you.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.