A day to mark history, underline current challenges and mark achievements
28 March 2018

A day to mark history, underline current challenges and mark achievements

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


For about 400 years from roughly mid-16th century to 19th century more than 15 million people were forced to migrate from Africa to many parts of the world. Cramped in inhuman slave ships, living and working in brutal conditions, their lives are part of one of the darkest chapters of history.


Acknowledging the tragedy and in memory of the victims, the General Assembly, in its resolution 62/122 of 17 December 2007, declared 25 March the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Honouring those who suffered the brutalities of the Transatlantic slave trade, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said the International Day set aside to remember this “epically shameful” chapter of human history is an opportunity raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.


“This tragic mass human suffering must be recounted to younger generations through education that offers an accurate reflection of historical accounts, including the many acts of bravery and resistance carried out by slaves,” Mr. Guterres noted.

To inculcate in future generations the causes, consequences and lessons of the transatlantic slave trade, the United Nations in India in collaboration with the Ethiopian Embassy organized the Observance at the Ethiopian Cultural Centre in New Delhi. More than 50 students and teachers participated from five schools in Delhi.


It is equally important to highlight the enormous contributions of people of African descent across the world. Contributions in every sphere of human life, from the sciences to the arts, from academia to sports, to politics, law, civil rights and international affairs. This was brought out by a set of 25 panels entitled “A Legacy of Black Achievers”. The panels featured 23 notable personalities of various backgrounds, eras, regions and disciplines, who paved the way for civil rights, human rights, recognition and justice for people of African descent and the diaspora.

This was followed by a screening of the 33-minute documentary film “Familiar Faces/Unexpected Places: A Global African Diaspora” by Dr. Sheila Walker. The film highlights the countless Afro-communities found in unexpected parts of the world, such as Turkey and India, and shows how African descendants maintained elements of their common culture.

The film was preceded by a welcome speech from the Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Ethiopia, Mr. Tewolde Mulugeta. He expressed the significance of the history of the slave trade but also highlighted the criminal human trafficking that affects Africa.


Mr. Derk Segaar, director of United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), in his speech delivered the Secretary General’s message on the observance and honoured those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system.


Post the film, Rajiv Chandran, National Information Officer, UNIC opened the discussion with myths and truths about trafficking and bonded labour. Dr Peggy Mohan, a writer and a migrant born in Trinidad, West Indies, elaborated about her research and experience on the migrants and slave trade in the Caribbean.


Sanya Seth from UN Women highlighted how women are more affected by trafficking through an experience of a Bangladeshi girl trafficked into the state of Assam in India.


The floor was then opened to questions and answers from the students. One of the pertinent questions raised was, as individual, what can one do to address trafficking. The panelists advised students to be alert of the surroundings, to read and inform themselves and others about trafficking and forced labour.
2018 also marks 70 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 4 of the Declaration says: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms”. Yet today we see modern manifestations of servitude and bondage, with millions of children among the victims.  So let us press, every day and everywhere, to defend the dignity of every human being.


The exhibition will continue to be on display at the Art Gallery of the India International Centre Annexe until 6 April.

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