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International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Message by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.

25 March 2010|Statement


Slavery is abhorrent. It is explicitly prohibited by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the United Nations has reaffirmed this principle many times, including in the Durban Declaration adopted at the 2001 World Conference Against Racism.

But slavery and slavery-like practices continue in many parts of the world. Slavery is mutating and re-emerging in modern forms, including debt bondage, the sale of children, and the trafficking of women and girls for sex. Its roots lie in ignorance, intolerance and greed.

We must create a climate in which such abuse and cruelty are inconceivable. One way is by remembering the past and honouring the victims of the transatlantic slave trade. By reminding ourselves of past injustices, we help to ensure that such systematic abuse of human rights can never be repeated.

Those who controlled the transatlantic slave trade made huge profits from death, misery and exploitation. They presided over the forcible removal of millions of people from their homelands in Africa. Slave traders and owners subjected these forced migrants and their descendants to the most callous physical, mental and emotional abuse.

We see the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade in all the countries it affected. If we are wise, we will use this legacy for good. We will recognize that it is clear evidence of what can happen, if intolerance, racism and greed are allowed to triumph.

We should also take heart from those who, with great courage, succeeded in ending this institutionalized abuse. Their bravery ensured the eventual triumph of the values the United Nations represents: tolerance, justice, and respect for the dignity and worth of all human beings.

Today, we salute all the victims of slavery and we commit ourselves to ensuring that this practice, in all its forms, is eradicated.

Ban Ki-moon
United Nations