07 October 2011

A Permanent Memorial to Honour Victims of Slavery

Inter Press Service

UNITED NATIONS  (IPS) - As a follow-up to a General Assembly resolution adopted recently. the United Nations last week announced an international competition for the creation of a Permanent Memorial to honour victims of Slavery and Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Over five centuries ago, more than 18 million people were forcefully removed from Africa and enslaved in the Americas and Europe in "one of the most devastative chapters of our history", Ambassador Joseph Goddard, Permanent representative of Barbados told reporters Friday. It’s a chapter the Permanent Memorial Committee and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) decided to highlight at a U.N. press conference. The theme of the Permanent Memorial initiative is: " Acknowledging the Tragedy; Considering the Legacy; Lest We Forget".

"This monument must be a strong symbol to say ‘never again’," Ambassador Raymond O. Wolfe, Permanent Representative of Jamaica and chair of the Permanent Memorial Committee said.

With this permanent memorial, the international community wants to ensure that the world will never again endure another tragedy of such immense proportions, which today is commonly referred to as a crime against humanity. The memorial is aimed at honouring the victims of this crime, Tete Antonio, Permanent Observer of the African Union said. Philippe Kridelka, Director of UNESCO’s New York Office said "this monument is not only a symbol, but it is part of the educational process around the memory of slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade".

The memorial represents an effort to acknowledge the tragedy of slavery but also to provide future generations with an understanding of the history and consequences of slavery. It will serve as an educational tool to raise awareness about the current dangers of racism, prejudice and the consequences that continue to impact the descendants of the victims today.

Wolfe pointed out "there are still contemporary forms of slavery, but a lot of resolutions have been adopted…the monument represents a source of reflexion not just in terms of what happened in the past, but also for what is taking place today." And he added, "We are here not to judge but to educate and encourage a total participation from all the countries because it is a United Nations’ project."

According to the press release, UNESCO invites artists, designers, sculptors, architects and other visual arts professionals worldwide to take part in this global effort to commemorate history. The deadline for the submission of design proposals to UNESCO is December 19, 2011. The design of the memorial will be selected through an internationally acceptable, credible and transparent global competition. The actual monument is expected to be unveiled at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in 2013.