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The United Nations General Assembly has overwhelmingly adopted a Jamaican-inspired resolution to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Some 160 countries, including former colonial powers, United Kingdom, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as all countries on the African continent, supported the resolution on Tuesday. By the adoption of the resolution, spearheaded by Jamaica and tabled by CARICOM countries, the General Assembly agreed to designate 25th of March as the International Day for the Commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. In a statement to the Assembly, Jamaica’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Raymond Wolfe, stressed the need for compensatory measures to address the lingering impact of slavery and the slave trade. He said the adoption of the resolution, along with the commemorative activities to be held in 2007, represented the beginning of steps towards acknowledgement, atonement, healing and reconciliation, while underlining the firm resolve of the international community that such horrific acts which dehumanized the victims of their dignity, spirit and self-worth, should never be forgotten or allowed to recur. He observed that beyond the symbolic gestures, it should be emphasized that the legacy of the slave trade and slavery, are not just of fundamental importance of the Caribbean and Africa. Their consequences, he said, should stir the conscience of the international community, especially taking into account the continued impact in political, social and economic terms.
The resolution recognized the slave trade and slavery as among the worst violations of human rights in the history of humanity, bearing in mind particularly their scale and duration. It acknowledged that the institution of slavery is at the heart of “profound social and economic inequality, hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice which continue to affect people of African descent today.” It recalled key sections of the Durban Declaration, adopted at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, emphasizing, in particular, the importance of the “provision of effective remedies, recourse, redress, and compensatory and other measures at the national, regional and international levels,” aimed at countering the continued impact of slavery and the slave trade. The resolution urged member states to develop educational programmes to educate and inculcate in future generations, including through school curricula, an understanding of the lessons, history and consequences of slavery and the slave trade. The General Assembly will convene a special commemorative meeting in remembrance of the event on 26 March 2007.
At the national level, the Jamaica National Bicentenary Committee, is coordinating a number of activities to commemorate the anniversary which begins with an official launch on 2nd January 2007 with a cultural rally in Emancipation Park.