Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Slavery at UN

UNITED NATIONS, CMC: Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have described the slave trade as a "scar 400 years deep" as the international community on Friday concluded a week of activities commemorating the International Day of Remembrance of Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Speaking on behalf of the regional integration grouping at a special commemorative meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, St. Vincent and the Grenadines UN Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves also described the slave trade "a festering sore on the conscience of humanity."

He said it was "a brutalisation of the psyche of a people so violent and enduring that it has created a shared cultural memory of the trauma."

"(The) collective memory lives so vividly in the souls of those who have died that it is bequeathed to those of us who live today and to those yet unborn," Gonsalves said, adding "this day also stands as a rebuke to those who profited, those who ignored, and those who justified the horrors of slavery and the slave trade."

"Today, we honour, we remember, and we shall never forget," the diplomat said, calling on the international community to contribute to the UN trust fund that has been established for erecting a permanent memorial, at the UN, in memory of the victims of the slave trade.

In his address, Gonsalvess paid special tribute to Haiti, calling it "the first nation to break the shackles of subjugation and the enduring seat of our Caribbean strength and pride."

"As our Haitian brothers and sisters confront the catastrophe of recent earthquakes, we have no doubt that, with the help of the international community, they will triumph, as they have triumphed over all prior adversities," he said.

In addition, the envoy reflected on "the memory of the indigenous peoples of our region" the Arawak, the Kalinago and the Garifuna inhabitants "whose tales of extermination through disease and genocide are also entwined with our own redemption song."

The UN's week of activities also included a briefing for non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and a videoconference involving more than 500 students from Ghana, Gambia, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Cuba, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

"This is a great opportunity to share with your fellow students the diversity and similarities of peoples of African descent, and the spirit of African culture," said Kiyo Akasaka, UN's Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.

"History has shown us that culture is one of the most poignant and powerful ways in which slaves and their descendents have overcome the cruel legacy of slavery," added Akasaka, underscoring this year’s theme, "Expressing Our Freedom through Culture."

In a message marking the occasion, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that slavery has "mutated and re-emerged" in modern forms including debt bondage, the sale of children, and the trafficking of women and girls for sex.

"We must create a climate in which such abuse and cruelty are inconceivable," Ban said.