Learn from the past, ‘stand united against racism’ – UN chief |

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For more than 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were victims of the tragic transatlantic slave trade, in one of the darkest chapters in human history.

“We know a lot about the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message commemorating the day.

He said it was clearly a crime against humanity, pointing to the unprecedented scale of human trafficking, the degrading economic transactions involved and the “unspeakable” violations of human rights.

The racist legacy lives on

But, the UN chief added, “there is also a lot we don’t know, and today is a day we are learning.”

Behind the facts and figures, he recalled that there are millions of human stories.

“Stories of untold suffering and pain…of families and communities torn apart, but also stories of awesome courage and defiance against the cruelty of oppressors.”

While the world will never know all the acts of resistance – big or small – that have slowly but surely triumphed over injustice, repression and slavery, he argued that these stories are “crucial to our understanding of ‘a past whose most pernicious and enduring legacy continues to erode’. our present: racism”.

Stand together

The International Day is an opportunity to learn and reflect on these stories and to pay tribute to the millions of Africans who have been uprooted from their homelands and communities, Mr. Guterres said, and to “stand up in solidarity against racism everywhere”.

“Discrimination, marginalization and exclusion”

Today, people of African descent “continue to face racial discrimination, marginalization and exclusion,” he said.

Political, economic and structural power imbalances that were rooted in colonial rule, slavery and exploitation continue today to deny equality of opportunity and justice.

In this context, the Secretary-General urged everyone to stand up against racism today and every day.

“Eradicate the global scourge”

In his message, the President of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, stressed the need to “discuss the legacy of slavery”, in particular the marginalization of people of African descent, “who are still denied justice and equality”.

“Let’s stand together, united against these inequalities,” he said. “This dark chapter should never be whitewashed”.

Natalia Kanem, head of the UN agency dedicated to promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights and ending gender-based violence, UNFPA, said that in remembering the victims of the slavery and the centuries-old transatlantic trade, “let us unite to eradicate the global scourge of racism”.

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