25 March 2013

Emancipation did not end with the abolition of chattel slavery

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 - Celebrating Emancipation."

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.

Mr. President,

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.  


Mr. President,

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 slavery.  
Mr. President,

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 thank you.

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 bodies.

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.


Mr. President,

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 protected.  

Please count on Latin America and the Caribbean in this noble pursuit.

Thank you.

Virgin Islands Joins United Nations Global Island Partnership

Government of the British Virgin Islands

Last month the Virgin Islands (VI) officially joined the Global Islands Partnership (GLISPA) in a move that is expected to strengthen Government’s efforts to preserve the natural environment and accelerate the sustainable development of the Territory.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, Dr. the Honourable Kedrick Pickering, made the announcement  at the GLISPA 2013 Steering Committee Meeting in Washington, DC.

In an interview with the Department of Information and Public Relations, Honourable Pickering said, “GLISPA is a United Nations (UN) recognised partnership and a platform for islands to cooperate on conserving their biodiversity and to promote sustainable development.”

He added, “There is a great deal that we can learn from our GLISPA partners and much that we can offer in terms of the work we have done here in the Territory in the area of environmental management.”

Speaking on the benefits of GLISPA, the Deputy Premier said, “Around the world islands are doing innovative things to grow sustainably. We can benefit from the UN’s experience with Small Island Developing States and the experience of our island partners in GLISPA who are successfully meeting the challenges faced by islands as they grow.”

“In the Pacific for example, Hawaii is doing a number of interesting things as it pertains to green growth, while Seychelles in the Indian Ocean has made substantial progress in managing its marine protected areas and building local awareness on biodiversity and promoting sustainable fisheries. We will be engaging them in the future on best practices in these areas,” he expounded.

The meeting brought together officials from a number of United Nations agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and governments to discuss GLISPA’s strategic plan for 2013. The 2013 strategic plan will focus on strengthening the link between sustainable development and conservation under the theme blue/green growth; and preparing for the United Nations Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Samoa in 2014.

In the margins of the meeting Honourable Pickering, held individual meetings with representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS). He also met with Hawaii and Seychelles officials.

Honourable Pickering capped off his visit with a presentation on the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) at a High Level Briefing organised by GLISPA.

The Deputy Premier was joined by Senior Political and Public Affairs Officer at the BVI London Office, Mr. Benito Wheatley.

GLISPA was formed in 2006 to help islands address the conservation and sustainability of their natural resources in support of their people, cultures and livelihoods. It is recognised by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as a partnership to advance the implementation of the CBD 2010 biodiversity target, to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss, and the programmes of work on island biodiversity and protected areas.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour envisions sound stewardship of our human and natural resources by implementing a legal framework that fosters environmentally-friendly best management practices.