U.N. chief hails memorial to victims of slavery

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed as “an important step” the launch of the website for the permanent memorial to honor the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.

“This is an important step forward in making this memorial a reality at the United Nations Headquarters complex,” said Ban in remarks delivered by Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, at a ceremony to mark the occasion at U.N. headquarters in New York.

“The memorial will acknowledge the crimes and atrocities perpetrated over the course of four centuries, when millions of Africans were violently removed from their homelands, ruthlessly abused and robbed of their dignity,” Ban added.” The legacy lives on today in the families and countries that were affected.”

The U.N. chief said the memorial will also remind the world of the bravery of those slaves, abolitionists and unsung heroes, “who managed to rise up against an oppressive system and end the practice.”

“It will also serve as a call to action against contemporary manifestations of slavery,” he said, adding that the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in the 19th did not eradicate the practice globally.

Instead, he said it took on other forms, “which persist to this day,” such as serfdom; debt bondage and forced and bonded labor; trafficking in women and children; domestic slavery; forced prostitution, including of children; sexual slavery; forced marriage and the sale of wives; and child labor and child servitude.

“This reality obliges the international community to bring perpetrators to justice and to continue pursuing with vigor its efforts to uphold human rights and human dignity,” Ban said.

The U.N. Secretary General thanked Jamaica, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Group for their “initiative in working for a permanent memorial and for creating the website that will advance that effort.”

He also thanked governments for their “generous financial contributions,” calling for more contributions, including from individuals and the private sector.

Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Raymond Wolfe, is heading efforts to erect the memorial, while a “Committee of Interested States” is also participating in the trust fund established in 2009 to pay for the memorial’s construction.

U.N. officials estimate that about US$4.5 million is needed so the memorial can be completed by next year.

More from Around NYC