UNESCO observes International Day of Slave Trade and Abolition

23 August 2005

The slave trade belongs to history, but remembering it helps foster an understanding of a present marred by the racism and discrimination handed down from this tragic chapter in history as well as promoting a vision of future multiculturalism, the United Nations cultural agency said today in a message marking the International Day for the Remembrance of Slavery and its Abolition.

“In line with the objectives of the intercultural “Slave Route” project, the day provides us with an occasion for common reflection, not only on the historical causes, the implications and the modes of operation of this tragedy, but also on the lasting consequences in Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean – and indeed the whole world,” Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural and Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said in a statement.

He said the slave trade, slavery and abolition also open up questions about the future and prompt us to reflect on the construction of new forms of citizenship heedful of our increasingly multi-ethnic and multicultural societies.

They also reveal how, despite the persistence of the most radical stereotypes and application of the most brutal discriminatory policies, an unexpected step towards inter-cultural communication has been taken that offer a fresh chance for dialogue.

The Slave Route Project, initially launched in 1994, was designed to foster a historical study of the causes and dynamics of the transatlantic slave trade, to clarify its consequences and to make a contribution to the establishment of a culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

UNESCO and the General Assembly chose this date as the international day of remembrance to commemorate the insurrection on the night of 22-23 August 1791 in Saint-Domingue (today Haiti and Dominican Republic), which was to play a pivotal role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and the emancipation of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.


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