Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition
23 August 2020
On 23 August this year, we honour the memory of the men and women who, in Saint-Domingue in 1791, revolted and paved the way for the end of slavery and dehumanization. We honour their memory and that of all the other victims of the slave trade and slavery, for whom they stand.
The fight against trafficking and slavery is universal and ongoing. It is the reason for which UNESCO led the efforts to launch the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. This special day acknowledges the pivotal struggle of those who, subjected to the denial of their very humanity, fought against the slave system.
The slave trade is the product of a racist worldview. Established as a system of thought, this outlook has been the basis for profoundly unjust political, economic, and social practices today recognized as crimes against humanity.
For a quarter century, UNESCO’s “Slave Route Project: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage” has sought to help governments, universities, the media and civil society to examine this tragic chapter in our history; to combat ignorance and the denial of a past which has nevertheless been extensively documented; and to raise awareness of this heritage in all its complexity. It is a project which is key to the International Decade for People of African Descent, inaugurated by the United Nations in 2015.
The Slave Route Project aims to deconstruct the rhetorical and pseudo-scientific mechanisms which served to justify the slavery system. This rational approach lays the ground for a reconciling of memories and the fight against all modern forms of servitude and discrimination.
Every day throughout the world, men and women of African descent continue to endure the effects of this grim legacy, sometimes paying with their lives.
On this commemorative day, UNESCO reaffirms its support for Member States so that together we can devise new measures to put an end to racist discrimination.
Once and for all, it is time to abolish human exploitation and to recognize the equal and unconditional dignity of each and every individual on Earth. Today, let us remember the victims and freedom fighters of the past so that they may inspire future generations to build just societies.