Thank you for joining us for the official opening of Victory Over Slavery: Haiti and Beyond.
This year, Haiti marks the 210th anniversary of its independence. This commemoration is a moment to recognize the struggle and courage of enslaved men and women, which not only resulted in the creation of an independent republic, but also led to the abolition of the slave trade and the heinous slavery system.
Ambassador [Denis] Régis [of Haiti], allow me to draw your attention to the panels that depict the bravery of General Toussaint Louverture and his fellow insurgents. The story of the Haitian Revolution and the resilience of its people, who demanded nothing more than to be granted their human rights continues to inspire us.
This exhibition also highlights the legacy of the slave trade.
Twenty years ago, UNESCO initiated the Slave Route Project, with the objective of breaking the silence on this human tragedy and its consequences. One of the many achievements of the project has been the growing awareness of the importance of protecting relevant sites and other heritage. Through the Project, UNESCO has also managed the design competition for a Permanent Memorial at the United Nations.
Ambassador [Courtney] Rattray [of Jamaica], the design for that memorial, known as The Ark of Return, is featured prominently in this exhibition. The designer is here with us today: Mr. Rodney Leon, we applaud you for your creative expression and we look forward to unveiling the Memorial with you in 2015. As you may know, 2015 will be the 70th anniversary of the United Nations’ founding. I am sure it will be an important addition to the Headquarters of the United Nations that will send a powerful message about the need to remain vigilant about the dangers of racism and racial discrimination today.
Ambassador [Tette] Antonió [of the African Union], as you know, the International Decade for People of African Descent will begin in the months ahead. This exhibition therefore offers a timely tribute to the diverse heritage and culture of the descendants of African peoples.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This exhibition is part of a larger programme, an important part of which is our Remember Slavery film festival. I was deeply moved to open the festival earlier this year with a screening of the Oscar-winning film, 12 Years A Slave. I think most of you must have seen this.
Another film in the festival will help us connect both sides of the Atlantic and complete the journey. They Are We, by director Emma Christopher. Thank you for your inspiration. She is present this evening, and she tells the story of the return of the Cuban descendents of an enslaved woman to her village of origin in Sierra Leone. This is indeed another victory over slavery. As it happens, you can see this moving story tomorrow evening in the Bronx, when there will be a free, outdoor screening jointly organized by the United Nations and the New York African Film Festival. I hope many of you will enjoy this film.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I thank you again. The United Nations is strongly committed to the essential work of remembering the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. Please enjoy the exhibition.
Thank you very much.