United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Close of international year for the commemoration of the struggle against slavery and its abolition

Susana Baca, Gilberto Gil, Danny Glover, Abdias do Nascimento, Louis Sala-Molins, Aimé Césaire and Christiane Taubira are among the many personalities who will take part, from December 3 to 5 at UNESCO Headquarters, in events dedicated to the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (December 2) and to close of the International Year for the Commemoration of the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition.



Proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations, this International Year, 2004, marks the bicentenary of the first independent black state, Haiti, symbol of uprising and resistance by slaves.

This commemoration […] is not only an act of historical solidarity with the victims of a terrible injustice and with those who fought for their freedoms and rights. It is also an act of re-commitment to the ongoing struggle against all forms of racism, as UNESCO’s Director-General Koďchiro Matsuura said at the International Year’s launch in Cape Coast (Ghana). In his message he also evoked the inter-cultural exchanges born of the slave trade: By retracing the cultural interactions brought about by the slave trade, which transported so many African men and women far from the land of their birth, we can indeed celebrate the extraordinary meeting of cultures born of this enforced dialogue.1

The year - devoted to a tragedy recognized as a crime against humanity in 2001 at the Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance – aimed to further and disseminate knowledge about slavery and the slave trade by highlighting the interactions it generated, as well as the philosophical, political and judicial processes involved in its abolition.

The following events will take place at UNESCO, December 3 – 5, to mark the close of the Year:

  • Opening by the Director General, of a traveling exhibition entitled Lest We Forget: the Triumph over Slavery (December 3, 5.30 p.m., Pas Perdus Hall). Curated by the Schomburg Center in New York in collaboration with UNESCO’s Slave Route project, the show, which has already traveled to several countries, traces the economic impact of the slave trade and slave labour on the development of the Americas and Europe, as well as the trade’s effects on economic, political and social life in Africa. It highlights its contribution to language, religion, music and institutions on all three continents.

  • The presentation, by the Director-General, of the Toussaint Louverture Prize, named after the freed slave who led the fight for the independence of Haiti (December 3, 6-6.30 p.m., Room I). Awarded exceptionally on the occasion of the Year 2004; the Prize celebrates contributions to the struggle against domination, racism and intolerance. Its laureates are the renowned poet Aimé Césaire (Martinique), who will participate via video-conference, and Abdias do Nascimento, a founder of the Teatro Experimental do Negro, an Afro-Brazilian association which initiated the rehabilitation of African heritage in Brazilian culture as part of the struggle against discrimination. A medal bearing the likeness of Toussaint Louverture was minted for the occasion.

  • A concert by Brazilian musician Gilberto Gil (December 3, 6.30-9.30 p.m., Room I). Born in Salvador de Bahia, Gilberto Gil was in 1964 one of the representatives of the Tropicalia movement that shook Brazilian culture, influencing not only music but also theatre and literature. He was named UNESCO Ambassador for Peace in 1999. Since December 23, 2002, Mr Gil has been Brazil’s Minister of Culture.

  • An international symposium on Issues of Memory: Coming to Terms with the Slave Trade and Slavery (December 4 and 5, Room IV). U.S. actor Danny Clover (USA), Peruvian singer Susana Baca, French philosopher, Louis Sala-Molins, and Member of the French Parliament Christiane Taubira from Guyana, are among the 20 international experts who will participate in three round tables: Knowledge, ignorance and silence about the slave trade (December 4, 8.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.); Ethical, legal and political responses (December 4, 3-6.30 p.m.); and Strategy of action to remember and prevent (December 5, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.).


  • 1. The full message of UNESCO’s Director-General is available at: www.unesco.org/dg
  • 2. The dossier in the next issue of the New Courier, The Slave Trade, A Peculiar Cultural Odyssey, will be available at www.unesco.org

    Journalists wishing to receive invitations should email the Press Relations Section
    i.le-fournis@unesco.org

    For information during the event (December 3 – 5): Press Relations Section: +33 (0)6 14 69 54 98


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    Author(s) UNESCOPRESS
    Source Media advisory No 2004 - 83
    Editorial Contact: Press Relations Section: +33 (0)6 14 69 54 98
    - Email i.le-fournis@unesco.org
    Publication Date 25 Nov 2004
    © UNESCO 1995-2007 - ID: 23743