On 26 September, the UNESCO Director General joined the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jamaica Honorable Arnold J. Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain H.E. Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Senegal H.E. Mr. Mankeur Ndiaye as well as Ambassador Antonio Tete, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the UN, and Ambassadors from the Netherlands, New Zealand and a representative of Qatar -- all standing together to support the last phase for the erection of the Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of slavery and transatlantic slave trade.
At a high level ceremony held at United Nations Headquarters, the Director-General delivered remarks in support of the final phase of the erection of the permanent memorial for victims of transatlantic slave trade.
The Ministers and representatives of the Netherlands, New Zealand, Qatar and Spain presented symbolic cheques to the Chair of the Permanent Memorial Committee, H.E. Mr. E. Courtenay Rattray, the Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations.
The United Nations Permanent Memorial to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is scheduled to be unveiled on United Nations ground in New York by the end of the first quarter of 2014
The Ark of Return was designed of Rodney Leon, the American architect of Haitian descent, also the architect and designer of the African Burial Ground National Monument in Manhattan. It was selected as the winner of an international UNESCO-led competition in August 2013. The Memorial is set to be a striking feature of the United Nations Visitors Plaza outside the General Assembly Hall.
Irina Bokova said "UNESCO is deeply honoured to have been associated with the Permanent Memorial Committee to coordinate the first phase of the International Design Competition."
Placing this event in the context of the 20th anniversary of the UNESCO Slave Route Project, the Director-General stated that "last year, I was here to unveil the winning design, “Arch of Return” by Mr Rodney Leon, America artists of Haitian Heritage, and this is also a powerful symbol, as we celebrate 210 years of independence of Haïti in 2014. Here we are again, to foster the same message of hope, of tolerance, of human dignity, which is never as strong as when it is enriched and enlightened by the knowledge of history."
The project is funded through generous voluntary contributions from Member States, complemented by funding from foundations and private individuals.
The Permanent Memorial at the United Nations to Honour the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade is an initiative which originated in 2007 and which has gained the unanimous support of the United Nations General Assembly.
Seven successive General Assembly resolutions, ending with A/RES/68/7 adopted on 21 October 2013, have endorsed the project and committed the United Nations to having the memorial placed at a prominent location at UN Headquarters to acknowledge the tragedy and consider the legacy of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
Minister Arnold Nicholson of Jamaica said the memorial will send a power message of the power of human and civil rights -- a message of human solidarity, which is essential today.
In closing, Irina Bokova quoted Rodney Leon -- "the Ark of Return is a bridge across the Atlantic, a universal point of reference, a place of interaction and communication for global cultural exchange.