Journée de commémoration des victimes de l’esclavage: poursuivons notre engagement pour que tout le monde puisse vivre dans la liberté et la dignité, presse M. Guterres

On trouvera, ci-après, le texte bilingue de l’allocution du Secrétaire général de l’ONU, M. António Guterres, prononcée lors de la manifestation de l’Assemblée générale sur la Journée de commémoration des victimes de l’esclavage et de la traite transatlantique des esclaves, à New York, aujourd’hui:

It is an honour to be with you to commemorate the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

The evil enterprise of enslavement lasted for over 400 years.  It was the largest legally sanctioned forced migration in human history.  Millions of African children, women, and men were kidnapped and trafficked across the Atlantic, ripped from their families and homelands – their communities torn apart, their bodies commodified, their humanity denied.

The history of racialized chattel slavery is a history of suffering, crime, violence, and exploitation.  It is a history of colossal injustice.  Just as the slave trade underwrote the wealth and prosperity of the colonizers, it devastated the African continent, thwarting its development for centuries.

It is a history of cruelty and barbarity.  From the slavers, ship captains and plantation owners to the banks, insurers and corporations that financed it – slavery shows humanity at its worst.

But it is also a history of awe-inspiring courage that shows human beings at their best – starting with enslaved people who rose up against impossible odds and extending to the abolitionists who spoke out against this atrocious crime. 

And yet, the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade haunts us to this day.  We can draw a straight line from the era of colonial exploitation to the social and economic inequalities of today.  The scars of slavery are still visible in persistent disparities in wealth, income, health, education, and opportunity.  And we can recognize the racist tropes popularized to rationalize the inhumanity of the slave trade in the white supremacist hate that is resurgent today. 

The long shadow of slavery still looms over the lives of people of African descent who carry with them the transgenerational trauma and who continue to confront marginalization, exclusion, and bigotry.  It is incumbent on us to fight slavery’s legacy of racism. 

The most powerful weapon [in] our arsenal is education – the theme of this year’s commemoration.  Governments everywhere should introduce lessons into school curricula on the causes, manifestations, and far-reaching consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Through our United Nations Remember Slavery Programme and UNESCO’s Slave Route Project, we stand ready to assist Member States.  We must learn and teach the horrific history of slavery. 

We must learn and teach the history of Africa and the African diaspora, whose people have enriched societies wherever they went, and excelled in every field of human endeavour.  And we must learn and teach the histories of righteous resistance, resilience, and defiance. 

The story of Queen Nanny of the Maroons in Jamaica, whose determined resistance efforts proved so successful that the British Empire had to sue for peace.  The successes of Queen Ana Nzinga of Ndongo in present-day Angola, whose deft diplomacy and military victories thwarted Portugal’s colonial ambitions and who inspired independence movements for centuries. 

The courage of Sojourner Truth, who was born into slavery, fought for her own freedom and then used her formidable powers to help others win theirs.  The heroism of Toussaint Louverture of Saint-Domingue, who transformed a fledgling slave rebellion into a revolutionary movement and who is today known as the “Father of Haiti”.  The reign of Abdul Kader in present-day Senegal during the Imamate of Futa Toro who prohibited the slave trade nearly one hundred years before its abolition in the United States. 

By teaching the history of slavery, we help to guard against humanity’s most vicious impulses.  By studying the prevailing assumptions and beliefs that allowed the practice to flourish for centuries, we unmask the racism of our own time.  And by honouring the victims of slavery – memorialized by the Ark of Return that stands in the plaza just outside this hall – we restore some measure of dignity to those who were so mercilessly stripped of it.

Journée internationale de commémoration coïncide avec le soixante-quinzième anniversaire de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme.  L’article 4 de la Déclaration proclame ce qui suit: « Nul ne sera tenu en esclavage ni en servitude; l’esclavage et la traite des esclaves sont interdits sous toutes leurs formes. »

Donnons vie à ces mots.  Rendons hommage aux victimes de la traite des esclaves en nous souvenant de leur combat.  Poursuivons notre engagement jusqu’à ce que chacune et chacun d’entre nous puisse vivre dans la liberté, la dignité et le respect des droits humains.

À l’intention des organes d’information. Document non officiel.