UN General Assembly adopts resolution welcoming 'Ark of Return' as permanent memorial to victims of slavery, transatlantic slave trade.

 
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Seventieth Session, 46th Meeting (AM), General Assembly, Meetings Coverage: Delegates Conclude Their Consideration of Revitalization of Assembly's Work, November 4, 2015.

The General Assembly would welcome the erection of the Ark of Return--the permanent memorial to honour the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade--in a prominent place at United Nations Headquarters that would be easily accessible to delegates, staff and visitors, according to a draft resolution it adopted today.

By other terms of the text--which the Assembly adopted without a vote, as it met to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade --the permanent memorial would be erected in acknowledgement of and consideration of the legacy of slavery.

Also by the text, the Assembly would further express gratitude to the committee of interested States, drawn from all the world's geographical regions, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), representatives of the Secretariat and civil society, which had overseen the permanent memorial project.

Further by the text, the Assembly would request the Secretary-General to continue to organize an annual series of activities to commemorate the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, including a commemorative meeting of the General Assembly at Headquarters and, as appropriate, activities through the network of United Nations information centres.

By other terms, the Assembly would request that the Secretariat's Department of Public Information, in cooperation with the countries concerned, relevant organizations and entities of the United Nations system, continue to take appropriate steps to enhance world public awareness of the commemorative activities and the permanent memorial. The Secretary-General would also be requested to report to the General Assembly at its seventy-third session on continued action to implement a programme of educational outreach, including actions taken by Member States in implementing the present resolution.

Also by the text, the United Nations Office for Partnerships, through the Secretary-General, would be requested to submit a comprehensive report to the General Assembly at its seventy-first session on the status of the Trust Fund and, in particular, on contributions received and their utilization. The Assembly would decide to include, in the provisional agenda of its seventy-first session, the item "Commemoration of the abolition of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade".

Mogens Lykketoft (Denmark), President of the General Assembly, commended the Department of Public Information in his opening remarks for having selected the theme "Women and slavery" for the 2015 commemoration. Slave women had suffered three-fold, being considered black in a white society, slaves in a free society and women in a society ruled by men, he said, adding that the struggles of millions of descendants of enslaved Africans had not ended. The current challenge was to fight all forms of discrimination, including gender discrimination, and to eradicate contemporary forms of slavery, such as sexual slavery, of which women and girls were the primary victims.

Jamaica's representative, presenting the draft resolution "Permanent memorial to and remembrance of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade" (document A/70/L.5), said the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and African States had collaborated with a wide range of partners to arrive at a text that truly reflected the consensus that the text had enjoyed over the years. Since the Assembly's last consideration of the agenda item under discussion, the permanent memorial had been completed and unveiled on 25 March 2015, on time and on budget. However, the work did not cease, she emphasized, pointing out that there remained broad scope for actions to teach present and future generations about the true nature of slavery and how it had been sustained, opposed and finally defeated.

Sierra Leone's representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that in commemorating the lives lost to slavery and the slave trade, the international community should also celebrate the resilience of the descendants. The tide of slavery had receded, but had not quite gone away, he cautioned, emphasizing that the international community must make sure that a world without slavery truly came about.

Several delegations underscored the need to protect the human rights of the descendants of enslaved Africans, with some calling for reparations to redress the horrific injustices of the past. Colombia's representative noted that the descendants had trodden a long path to claim their rights. The 2015-2024 International Decade for People of African Descent proclaimed by the Assembly in its resolution 68/237 had opened a window for reparations in that regard.

Cuba's representative quoted Fidel Castro's address at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, recalling that the former Cuban President...

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