The UN has called on the global community to reflect on the legacy of slavery and remember to guard against racial prejudices which continue to fuel everyday discrimination against people of African descent.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) made the call on the 20th anniversary of the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, in her message for the day, said remembering slave trade offered the chance to raise awareness and oppose all forms of modern slavery.
“UNESCO invites everyone, including public authorities, civil society, historians, researchers and ordinary citizens, to mobilise in order to raise awareness about this history that we share and to oppose all forms of modern slavery,” Ms Azoulay said.
On the night of August 22, 1791, an uprising began in the western part of Saint-Domingue Island, which, throughout the century, would greatly contribute to the abolition and dismantling of the transatlantic slave trade.
“The war that ensued culminated in 1804 in the independence of that part of the island, which took the name of Haiti, and led to the recognition of the equal rights of all its inhabitants,” MsbAzoulay said, explaining the inspiration for the Day.
Each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the Day’s importance and also pays tribute to those who worked hard to abolish slave trade and slavery throughout the world.
Ms Azoulay pointed out that since 2001, trafficking and slavery had been recognised by the international community as crimes against humanity.
“Yet, these scourges resurface at regular intervals in different ways and in different places,” she added, saying that new forms of slavery can be prevented by knowing the slave trade history.
The Slave Route Project, launched by UNESCO in 1994, has made it possible to identify the ethical, cultural and socio-political issues of this painful history, she said.
“By developing a multidisciplinary approach, which links historical, memorial, creative, educational and heritage dimensions, this project has contributed to enriching our knowledge of the slave trade and spreading a culture of peace,” Ms Azoulay said.
Meanwhile, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has underscored that domestic workers are one of the groups most vulnerable to exploitation, violence, harassment and forced labour.
The UN labour agency said, “many women end up being trapped in abusive work situations which in some cases may amount to modern forms of slavery.”
ILO said “no fewer than 67 million domestic workers who care for our homes and loved ones frequently suffer violence, harassment, exploitation and coercion – ranging from verbal abuse to sexual violence, and sometimes even death.’’
“At the root of this situation is discrimination,” said Philippe Marcadent, Chief of the ILO Branch related to Inclusive Labour Markets, Labour Relations and Working Conditions.
“Domestic workers are often not recognised as workers, and face discrimination as women, often from poor and marginalised groups, such as migrants and indigenous peoples,” Mr Marcadent said.
For many, daily abuses like lack of rest and non-payment of wages could quickly turn into forced labour, ILO said.
“Today domestic workers are beginning to organise, and ILO is discussing a new legal instrument to combat violence and harassment in the world of work,” the UN labour agency said.