Ambassador Raymond Wolfe
Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations
Chairman of the Permanent Memorial Committee
at the Launch of the Trust Fund and
Appointment Ceremony for Mr. Russell Simmons, Goodwill Ambassador
for the Permanent Memorial at the United Nations
to the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
UN Headquarters, 20 May 2009
WELCOME AND OPENING REMARKS
Under Secretary General,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to welcome you to the Launch of the Trust Fund and appointment of a Goodwill Ambassador for the Permanent Memorial to honour the memory of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, which will be erected here at the United Nations Headquarters. On behalf of the Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the African Union (AU), I extend a special welcome to representatives of civil society and corporate America and other key partners.
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, it is an honour and privilege for me as Chairman of the Permanent Memorial Committee, to preside over this morning’s events as we launch the Permanent Memorial Trust Fund and appoint Mr Russell Simmons a Goodwill Ambassador. As a Jamaican, I am proud to be here because of the genesis of the initiative to erect a permanent memorial at the United Nations in honour of the memory of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. As a Caribbean national, I am equally proud that this United Nations initiative is led by Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and enjoys strong collaboration, support and solidarity with the African Union – which is also a source of pride for both regions.
At the same time, I should add that this is a project that is of importance not only to the Member States CARICOM and the African Union but also the entire UN family as evidenced by the overwhelming support it continues to receive in the General Assembly. In this regard, I also express appreciation to the 122 Member States that co-sponsored the last resolution – General Assembly A/RES/63/5.
It is a well known fact that my own region’s history is deeply rooted in the legacy of slavery, having been colonized first by the Spanish in the 1500s. Thereafter, most Caribbean countries remained under British colonial rule for more than 300 years. History has recorded the harsh conditions enslaved Africans and their descendants endured en route to the colonies and subsequently on arrival there. We pay homage to the thousands who lost their lives by choosing death instead of facing the great unknown on the horrific sea-voyage ahead of them; we revere those who suffered, fought and died in opposition to their new found lot of enslavement; and we praise those who rose up and fought for abolition of the despicable and inhumane system of slavery.
It is with a sense of duty and deep humility that we seek to honour the memories of our ancestors who were brought to the Caribbean and other regions as a result of the transatlantic slave trade. We firmly believe that the permanent memorial that was endorsed by the General Assembly should be viewed as a tangible source of hope and a means of remembrance of the struggles to break free of the hardships faced under the pernicious system of slavery and colonial rule.
Today’s ceremony takes us one step forward in realizing our objective of honouring the memory of our ancestors and erecting a permanent memorial at the United Nations - Lest we forget. As we look to the future, we recognize the need to ensure that future generations do not endure trauma and suffering of slavery. Consequently, Member States agreed to a programme of international outreach conducted by the UN Department for Public Information, which falls under Mr Akasaka’s purview. Let me add that we value the efforts of the UN Department for Public Information (DPI) in conducting this outreach programme.
I would like to thank our Goodwill Ambassador, Mr. Russell Simmons for graciously accepting the title we have just conferred on him. As Chairman of the Permanent Memorial Committee I take this opportunity on behalf of the other Committee members to say that we are looking forward to working with you to raise the international profile of our initiative and to implementing strategic initiatives to make the permanent memorial a reality. I would also like to extend a personal invitation for you to attend a meeting of the Committee at appropriate time to be determined in the future for a brief exchange of ideas with the key players behind the initiative.
Let me put on record, my sincere appreciation to the Member States of CARICOM and the African Union who remain resolute in their commitment to the initiative, and have given tremendous support to myself and to the Permanent Memorial Committee as we seek to implement the decisions taken by the General Assembly to erect a permanent memorial to honour the memory of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade. This initiative is indeed another manifestation of the strong solidarity between our two regions.
I take this opportunity to also express sincere appreciation for the kind generosity of the Governments of those countries that have already made donations to the Permanent Memorial Fund. We are thankful for the show of solidarity in acknowledging the legacy of this dark period of history. In this regard, I wish to publicly thank the following countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Botswana, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Haiti, Luxembourg, Mozambique, Namibia, Portugal, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Spain, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Turkey the United Kingdom and, of course, my own country, Jamaica.
The United Kingdom is in the unique position of being the first country to have made their contribution directly into the newly established Trust Fund. They were recently followed by Sudan and we envisage that other countries will follow in their footsteps in making voluntary contribution to the Permanent Memorial Trust Fund.
Let me also express appreciation to the members of the Committee that was established to oversee the Permanent Memorial project and the United Nations Office for Partnerships and the UN Department for Public Information which have been collaborators with the Committee in the advancement of our initiative.
I thank you distinguished ladies and gentlemen for participating in this small chapter of history. It is my hope that when the monument is being erected, many of you will choose to once again visit this noble house to witness what we hope will be a truly historic event.