Mr. President, Madame Deputy Secretary-General, Excellencies,
Today we recognize the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade by paying tribute to the millions who suffered under the lash and praising the countless efforts of others who fought to bring this odious practice to an end. Our tribute is not confined to a single day or a set of speeches, however solemn, but continues daily in our efforts to chronicle and preserve the history of those who suffered; to celebrate the victories of those who fought not only the practice but its legacy; and by our active efforts to bring an end to the modern equivalent of slavery and its despicable industry – human trafficking.
The United States remains committed to preserving the memory of slavery within our own country’s history. We must never forget the full extent of the human suffering involved and we must remain vigilant in our readiness to fight any attempt to deprive others of their freedom for the benefit of a few. In the United States we celebrate National African-American History Month every February and this year we focused on the brave African Americans who fought for their freedom in the Civil War. We continue to look for ways to connect American voices, to the global conversation about the Transatlantic Slave Trade. We are also one of the primary funders of UNESCO’s Transatlantic Slave Trade education program, launched by a network of schools in Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and North America and Africa that seeks to increase awareness of the causes and consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
The transatlantic slave trade is a part of our country’s history and the struggle for freedom is central to the African American experience in the United States. From resolute Revolutionary War soldiers fighting for liberty to the hardworking students of today reaching for horizons their ancestors could only have imagined, African Americans have strengthened our Nation by leading reforms, overcoming obstacles, and breaking down barriers. The U.S. has been enriched by African American leaders who, by word and example, have sought to cast off the burden of slavery and keep our country true to its founding principles.
On January 31, 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton acknowledged the International Year for People of African Descent, an initiative we supported both at the United Nations and at the Organization of American States, as “an opportunity for all of us around the globe to celebrate the diversity of our societies and to honor the contributions that our fellow citizens of African descent make every day to the economic, social, and political fabrics of our communities.” As part of that effort, we are engaging with civil society and host governments in the Western Hemisphere on a set of programs aimed at highlighting the contributions made by people of African descent. We continue working closely with the governments of Brazil and Colombia on Action Plans to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and Promote Equality in our respective countries and are also partnering with Brazil in launching an anti-racism curriculum project at UNESCO.
Finally, as we commemorate the victims of slavery and remember the slave trade we must note our ongoing efforts to combat human trafficking and other forms of modern slavery. Through the work of the U.S. President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons we are building a “whole of government” approach that will raise public awareness of existing protections and improve the way we protect trafficking victims and prosecute human trafficking cases within our borders. The United States will continue to work in the United Nations and in other international fora to end modern slavery, bring traffickers to justice and empower survivors to reclaim their rightful freedom.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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