International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade Special Commemorative Session of the United Nations General Assembly
Statement on Behalf of
The Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC)
delivered by H.E. Ms. Dessima M. Williams
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
25 March 2013
"...we cannot lose sight of the fact that in a number of regions, including the sub-region of the Caribbean and elsewhere, emancipation ushered in the era of colonialism which, in many respects, merely perpetuated a refined form of what had formerly prevailed. Thus, the anti-colonial struggle was born, in earnest, as a logical outgrowth of the emancipation struggle, and serves as a constant reminder that full emancipation did not end with the abolition of chattel slavery."
Mr. President, Mr.
Secretary-General, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman,
I have the honour to speak on
behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Member States (GRULAC) on
this 2013 observance of the International Day of Remembrance of Victims of
Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade under the theme: "Forever Free -
On this day each year this august body pays its respects to those who were forcibly taken from their homes and
families against their will, and transported across the Atlantic Ocean under
the most inhumane conditions known to humankind. The Atlantic Ocean became the
final resting place of thousands of souls who perished along the way.
Those who survived this infamous horror
known as the Middle Passage were landed in ports throughout Latin America and
the Caribbean into an existence of forced labour and systemic cruelty which
lasted for generations. Entire economies in much of what is now known as the
"developed world" were literally built on the backs of this
involuntary African labour, in large measure. May such an acknowledged crime
against humanity never be repeated, in any form or manifestation, in any part
of our globe.
Emerging from this unparalleled
tragedy in the history of our planet was the liberation of the many African
men, women and children who had endured the torment, torture and attempted
de-humanization, and who fought against considerable odds to gain their freedom.
Those persons - and their descendants - are those who the great Jamaican
thinker Bob Marley referred to as "the survivors."
Yet, the struggle for full and
absolute emancipation remains a continuing endeavor, and reparation is
necessary to fully heal humanity from the brutality of the period when chattel
slavery was forced and perpetuated upon a particular segment of humankind.
Part of this emancipation, this
freedom, was achieved first in Haiti in 1804. This set in motion the movement
for freedom from bondage in other parts of the Caribbean and our wider Latin
American region, as well as in North America, Europe, and beyond. At this juncture, we cannot lose sight of the
fact that in a number of regions, including the sub-region of the Caribbean and
elsewhere, emancipation ushered in the era of colonialism which, in many
respects, merely perpetuated a refined form of what had formerly prevailed.
Thus, the anti-colonial struggle was born, in earnest, as a logical
outgrowth of the emancipation struggle, and serves as a constant
reminder that full emancipation did not end with the abolition of chattel
Latin America and the Caribbean
takes note of August 2012 Report of the
Secretary-General of August 2012 outlining the implementation of the outreach
programme and steps to enhance global awareness on the activities associated
with this commemoration. In this
connection, we express our appreciation to the Department of Public Information
for the organisation of the historical briefing held last year. We also recall
the successful exhibit here at U.N. Headquarters in conjunction with the
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Yale University Press, the
National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. and other institutions.
We further commend the organizers
for the 2012 showing of the documentary film on post emancipation slavery, the
broadcast of radio programmes on the slave trade, and the student video
conference which made connections among young people whose societies were
linked to the transatlantic slave trade, and some that were not. We wish to also acknowledge with admiration
the important work of UNESCO within its successful "Slave Route Project: resistance, freedom, heritage," and
most recently, with the production of the educational film: "A Story Not to Be Forgotten." We
We are especially appreciative of
the events organised last week around this year's commemoration including the
panel discussion with eminent scholars, the global student video conference,
the film screening of the movie "Lincoln,"
the presentation and book signing, the cultural and culinary evening, and the
dynamic concert last Friday night.
At the national level, a number
of initiatives have been undertaken by GRULAC member states in furtherance of
dissemination of information on the slave trade and its gruesome historical
legacy. In this connection, the work of El Salvador in the integration of the
issue of slavery into the social studies curriculum of the education system is
to be highly commended.
The work of Jamaica is to be
especially highlighted, in promoting awareness of the rich historical and
cultural expressions, and through the various artistic, literary, scholarly and
other programmes carried out by an array of governmental and civil society
The Group endorses the leadership
role played by Jamaica and other GRULAC Member States, including my own country
Grenada, and of CARICOM in close collaboration with the Member States of the African
Group in relation to the development of the Permanent
Memorial to and remembrance of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic
slave trade. In this connection, the Members States of Latin American and
Caribbean encourage other Member States, international institutions, and other
relevant parties within the international community to continue and further enhance
their voluntary contributions to the Trust Fund established to facilitate the
completion of this universal permanent memorial project.
In conclusion, GRULAC Member
States join with the wider international community in commemorating this
important day which observes the struggle and subsequent achievements of the
people who were emancipated from the scourge of physical slavery. It is,
indeed, a day of celebration. But it is also a day for us to take stock, and to
deepen our resolve to tackle the contemporary challenges of inequality,
poverty, colonialism and more - all of which have their antecedents in the
mindset which held "one race superior, and another inferior". This
concept must be thoroughly "discredited and abandoned" even in its
most contemporary forms.
Freedom won must be constantly
Please count on Latin America
and the Caribbean in this noble pursuit.