Statement by the delegation of Ukraine at the commemorative meeting of the UNGA on the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Statement by the delegation of Ukraine at the commemorative meeting of the UNGA on the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Mr. President,

At the outset I welcome conducting of this commemorative meeting aimed at paying tribute to all victims of slavery and consolidating international cooperation on combating contemporary forms of slavery.

It is unfortunate that giving the high importance of the issue the statement of the Eastern European Group of states yet again was not agreed due to the same reasons as it was with the Group’s statement on the elimination of racial discrimination last week.

Mr. President,

Slavery and the slave trade, including the transatlantic slave trade, were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity. It is beyond any doubt that slavery, including the transatlantic slave trade, constitute a crime against humanity and should always have been so. Slavery is a major source and manifestation of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Peoples in Africa, Asia and other parts of the world were victims of these acts and continue to be victims of their consequences.

As I mentioned at the commemorative meeting on racial discrimination last week, being a founding member of the United Nations Ukraine took an active part in decolonization process. I would like, therefore, to reiterate our solidarity with all peoples, who suffered from slavery and slave trade.

Having said that I would like to underline that my People has also suffered from slavery. This scourge has been harming Ukrainians from ancient centuries till the end of Soviet era.

The biggest tragedy of my people was being a part of the Russian Empire for 3 centuries out of Ukraine’s millennium history. Those 3 centuries were marked with enslaving practices and slave trade.

The Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko, being a former serf in the Russian Empire, once said:

“People, people!

If you are asked to give your mother

For a piece of rotten sausage,

So, you will”

It is true that very often in some societies an apathy prevails. Unless something violent and outrageous happens an apathic society remains complacent where valuables substitute values.

Therefore, we should redouble our efforts to deliver on the SDGs aimed at providing peace and prosperity for every people in the world by urgent collective action in a global partnership.

Mr. President,

Even in 1861 when the Russian Empire at last abolished serfdom as one of the slavery practices, repressions and exploitation of my People by Moscow did not vanish.

In 20th century the totalitarian regime of Stalin continued the practice of state slavery against Ukrainians by conducting largescale political repressions, sending thousands to GULAG and other forced labor camps. All peasants in former USSR were enslaved by enforced collectivization and limitation of freedoms. It is hard to believe, but they received their first passports only in 1974.

To pursue collectivization Stalin conducted a genocide by artificial famine called “Holodomor” to suppress the spirit of resistance of Ukrainians, which took millions of innocent lives.

Therefore, Ukraine strongly condemns glorification of totalitarian regimes, especially Stalin’s one, which unfortunately is the case in the Russian Federation, where Stalin’s methods of persecution of peoples are widely used in internal and foreign policies nowadays.

I am confident that all crimes of slavery whether committed in Africa, Asia, Europe or elsewhere should be condemned and all their victims paid tribute. This is our moral and legal responsibility not to allow a repetition of such tragedies and to combat all existing modern forms of slavery, which still harming our societies.

It is evident that despite its prohibition, slavery and slavery-like practices in the form of trafficking of persons and other forms of modern slavery still persist and constitute flagrant violations of human rights. In Ukraine we keep receiving worrying information about cases of human exploitation and human trafficking in certain areas of Ukraine, which remain under foreign occupation.

We are convinced that the United Nations including Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine as well as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery should give due attention to the situation in the temporary occupied territories of Ukraine in their regular reporting.

Mr. President,

The lessons of the past should urge us to address the scourge of slavery including all its contemporary forms. We need to address its roots causes such as discrimination on any grounds and violations of international law, which fuels intolerance and ignorance and leads to conflicts.

I thank you.