A Permanent Memorial to Slave Trade at UN Called 'The Ark of Return'


Human Wrongs Watch

General view of the Island of Gorée, Senegal, which was from the 15th to the 19th century, the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast. Photo: UNESCO/Dominique Roger

On 26 September 2014, at a high level ceremony on the margins of the UN General Assembly, the representatives of six nations – The Netherlands, New Zealand, Qatar, Senegal, Jamaica and Spain – marked the financing of The Ark of Return, the new memorial which is expected to be unveiled on the grounds of the UN’s Headquarters in New York in the beginning of 2015.

A Powerful Message on the Need to Remain Vigilant about the Dangers of Racism and Racial Discrimination?

Speaking at the event, UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, highlighted the memorial’s role as “a powerful symbol” and said UNESCO was “deeply honoured” to have been associated with the coordination of the process by which the memorial was selected.

The Ark of Return is the design of Rodney Leon, also the architect and designer of the African Burial Ground National Monument in Manhattan. It was selected as the winner of an international UNESCO-led competition in August 2013.

Maher Nasser, Acting Under-Secretary-General of the UN Department of Public Information – the body that manages the UN’s Remember Slavery commemorative programme – was equally humbled by the role the memorial would play in ensuring that the legacy of the slavery and the transatlantic slave trade not be forgotten.

“The memorial will be an important addition to UN Headquarters complex when it is built,” he told those gathered, “and it will send a powerful message on the need to remain vigilant about the dangers of racism and racial discrimination today.”

Shackles used to bind slaves. UN Photo/Mark Garten

Shackles used to bind slaves. UN Photo/Mark Garten

In his remarks, Ambassador Tete Antonio, the representative of the African Union to the UN, similarly described the inauguration of the memorial as “a momentous time in the history of the United Nations.”

“The overwhelming support of Member States is evident today in the generous contributions that continue to flow into the trust fund for the construction of the Ark of Return,” Tete Antonio noted.

“This is a symbol set in marble that will stand high on the grounds of the United Nations for generations to come lest we forget.”

The project is funded through generous voluntary contributions from Member States, complemented by funding from foundations and private individuals. A Trust Fund account is administered by the Fund of the UN Office for Partnerships.

As at 15 September 2014, pledges and contributions to the fund stand at about $1.5 million, leaving a minimal funding gap of approximately $500,0000 to complete the project as planned. It is the aim of the Permanent Memorial Committee that the shortfall should be raised by the end of 2014 given the current trend.

Over 70 member States have generously supported the project to date and the Permanent Memorial Committee appeals to others to join the group of contributors in order to bring the project to completion. (*Source: UN Release).

More than 20 Million Human Beings, Victims of Modern Forms of Slavery

Marking the anniversary of the first successful slave uprising in the Western hemisphere, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said on 23 August 2014 that the struggle to overcome slavery “has strengthened awareness of the equality of all men and women, which we have all inherited directly.”**

“The history of the slave trade tells not only of the suffering endured but also of the ultimately victorious struggle for freedom and human rights, symbolized by the slave uprising in Saint-Domingue on the night of 22 to 23 August 1791,” said UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, in a message to mark the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.

This year’s Day commemorates year of the 210th anniversary of Haiti’s independence and the 20th anniversary of UNESCO’s educational and cultural programme, the Slave Route Project, a pioneering project that has helped to accelerate research and raise awareness of the history of slavery and its consequences.

UNESCO’s educational and cultural programmes and support for historical research are intended to highlight the wealth of the traditions that African peoples have forged in the face of adversity – in art, music, dance and culture in its broader sense, creating indissoluble ties between peoples and continents and irreversibly transforming the face of society.

Mobilizing against Modern Forms of Slavery and Trafficking in Human Beings

This heritage is invaluable for living in peace in our globalized world on the eve of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024),” said Bokova, adding that transmission of this history is an essential condition for any lasting peace based on mutual understanding among peoples and full awareness of the dangers of racism and prejudice.

“It also helps us to continue mobilizing against modern forms of slavery and trafficking in human beings that still affect more than 20 million people worldwide,” she said.

Source: UN

Source: UN

Bokova noted that UNESCO is contributing actively towards the design of a Permanent Memorial to and Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, to be established at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

“I call on all Member States and partners of UNESCO, in schools, universities, the media, museums and places of memory, to mark this International Day and redouble their efforts to ensure that the role played by slaves in winning recognition of universal human rights is better known and taught more widely,” she said.

that the struggle to overcome slavery “has strengthened awareness of the equality of all men and women, which we have all inherited directly.”

“The history of the slave trade tells not only of the suffering endured but also of the ultimately victorious struggle for freedom and human rights, symbolized by the slave uprising in Saint-Domingue on the night of 22 to 23 August 1791,” said UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova, in a message to mark the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.

This year’s Day commemorates year of the 210th anniversary of Haiti’s independence and the 20th anniversary of UNESCO’s educational and cultural programme, the Slave Route Project, a pioneering project that has helped to accelerate research and raise awareness of the history of slavery and its consequences.

UNESCO’s educational and cultural programmes and support for historical research are intended to highlight the wealth of the traditions that African peoples have forged in the face of adversity – in art, music, dance and culture in its broader sense, creating indissoluble ties between peoples and continents and irreversibly transforming the face of society.

Source: UN

Source: UN

This heritage is invaluable for living in peace in our globalized world on the eve of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024),” said Bokova, adding that transmission of this history is an essential condition for any lasting peace based on mutual understanding among peoples and full awareness of the dangers of racism and prejudice.

“It also helps us to continue mobilizing against modern forms of slavery and trafficking in human beings that still affect more than 20 million people worldwide,” she said.

Bokova noted that UNESCO is contributing actively towards the design of a Permanent Memorial to and Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, to be established at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

“I call on all Member States and partners of UNESCO, in schools, universities, the media, museums and places of memory, to mark this International Day and redouble their efforts to ensure that the role played by slaves in winning recognition of universal human rights is better known and taught more widely,” she said. (**Source: UN Release).

Read also:

2014 Human Wrongs Watch

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