United Nations, March 25, 2020
President of the United Nations General Assembly (PGA), Amb. Tijani Muhammad-Bande has called for concerted global action against modern slavery.
Muhammad-Bande made the call in a message to mark the 2020 International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Commemorated every year since 2008, the event remembers and honours victims of the transatlantic slave trade, considered “the worst violation of human rights in history”.
It also seeks to raise global awareness about the dangers of racism, prejudice and other forms of discrimination.
The PGA noted more than two centuries after the abolition of the slave trade, no fewer than 40 million people were still caught up in modern slavery.
According to him, children constitute one quarter, and women 71 per cent, of the victims.
Muhammad-Bande, who is Nigeria’s ambassador to the UN, regretted the postponement of the commemorative meeting on the event over the coronavirus pandemic.
He noted that the pandemic, itself, “reinforces the fact that we have a duty to open our minds to the lived experiences of others”.
“Today, we remember the 15 million Africans that were forcibly removed from their homelands.
“These people were subjected to heinous cruelty and robbed of their dignity, freedom, and identities.
“The transatlantic slave trade seeded deep inequalities within societies.
“Economies prospered at a great human cost: entire industries were built upon the suffering of fellow human beings.
“A minority amassed tremendous wealth and power whilst those who toiled were denied their most basic human rights”, he said.
Muhammad-Bande added that many lives were lost and the future of generations stolen by slavery.
According to him, descendants of the victims “continue to face enduring social and economic inequality, intolerance, prejudice, racism, and discrimination”.
“Today, I call on all Member States to recognise the contributions made by people of African descent and pay tribute to their resilience.
“Throughout this Decade for People of African Descent, I urge Member States to adopt, implement and strengthen policies and programmes which combat hate speech, xenophobia, racism and racial discrimination.
“As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN, we must take collective action to reduce inequalities, eliminate racial discrimination, and end modern slavery,” he said.
The Nigerian envoy emphasised that the world must go beyond tolerance, and create an environment of “intercultural understanding”.
“The onus is upon every Member State to eradicate trafficking, forced labour, servitude and slavery.
“None of us will be truly free whilst these people suffer.
“We simply cannot be indifferent to injustice. It is incumbent upon each of us to uphold the human rights of everyone, everywhere,” he added.