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International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

The History

The night of 22 to 23 August 1791, in Santo Domingo (today Haiti and the Dominican Republic) saw the beginning of the uprising that would play a crucial role in the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

It is against this background that UNESCO inscribes the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition on 23 August each year to memorialise the transatlantic slave trade.

This International Day is intended to inscribe the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of all peoples. In accordance with the goals of the intercultural project “The Slave Route”, it should offer an opportunity for collective consideration of the historic causes, the methods and the consequences of this tragedy, and for an analysis of the interactions to which it has given rise between Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean.

The Encyclopaedia Brittanica outlines the series of events which is an important read.


Why is UNESCO important and what are our links with UNESCO?

UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. It seeks to build peace through international cooperation in Education, the Sciences and Culture. UNESCO’s programmes contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals defined in Agenda 2030, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015.

The Director-General of UNESCO invites the Ministers of Culture of all Member States to organise events every year on 23 August, involving the entire population of their country and in particular young people, educators, artists and intellectuals.

International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition was first celebrated in a number of countries, in particular in Haiti (23 August 1998) and Goree in Senegal (23 August 1999). Cultural events and debates too were organized. The year 2001 saw the participation of the Mulhouse Textile Museum in France in the form of a workshop for fabrics called “Indiennes de Traite” (a type of calico) which served as currency for the exchange of slaves in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

There is the UNESCO’s Slave Route project: Resistance, Liberty, Heritage has broken the silence surrounding the slave trade and slavery that have concerned all continents and caused the great upheavals that have shaped our modern societies.

Launched in 1994 in Ouidah, Benin, on a proposal from Haiti, it pursues the following objectives:

  • Contribute to a better understanding of the causes, forms of operation, stakes and consequences of slavery in the world (Africa, Europe, the Americas, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, Middle East and Asia);
  • Highlight the global transformations and cultural interactions that have resulted from this history;
  • Contribute to a culture of peace by promoting reflection on inclusion, cultural pluralism, intercultural dialogue and the construction of new identities and citizenships

Under the guidance of its International Scientific Committee, the project continues to encourage new research in neglected regions; to define new approaches for the teaching of this history; to elaborate new guides for the identification, preservation and promotion of sites and itineraries of memory related to the slave trade and slavery; to promote the contributions of people of African descent to the construction of contemporary societies; and, to preserve written archives and intangible heritage related to this history.

Our links to UNESCO are via Evelyne Para, who is our SI United Nations Representative at UNESCO


Exploitation in our world today…what can we do ?

Sadly, slavery still exists today and we only have to look on all forms of communication platforms to read and hear about cases of exploitation happening across the globe. So how can we mark this important event and continue to help eradicate this heinous crime?

  1. We could remind ourselves of the role of UNESCO?

UNESCO has a unique role to play in strengthening the foundations of lasting peace and equitable and sustainable development. Advancing cooperation in education, the sciences, culture, communication and information holds strategic stakes at a time when societies across the world face the rising pressures of change and the international community faces new challenges

  1. We could re-familiarise ourselves as to the international definition of Human Trafficking… The Palermo Protocol?

Human trafficking can be defined as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”
(UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons)

  1. We could read more about the UNESCO Slave Route Project?

There has been a two-year collaboration between the UNESCO Slave Route Project and the GHFP Research Institute, supported by Georgetown University. Earlier this year this Desk Review Report was published to capture, map and analyse conceptions and approaches to healing mass traumas such as the wounds of trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery.

The report recommendations highlight five steps that constitute a rigorous and systematic process of developing engaging programmes for healing the wounds of trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery.

  1. We could complete the new human trafficking online training and read Brave the Bear story book and make a pledge to pass this link onto 2 other people…


  1. We could consider SDG 16 in our plans for our Best Practice Awards for 2022


In my conclusion, we can, as individuals and at club level, do even more to help eradicate exploitation of human beings. We can of course mark this important day in a variety of ways but as the day turns to night let’s all make a pledge to do even more tomorrow…

Kim Ann Williamson
APD Peace