Over four centuries, more than 18 million people were forcefully removed from Africa to the Americas (including the Caribbean) and Europe.
For those who survived the horrific middle passage, thousands of them would later perish as a result of the cruel and inhuane treatment meted out to them and from the appauling conditions in which they had to exist on the plantations.
The Permanent Memorial will serve as a reminder of the legacy of the slave trade. It will provide future generations an understanding of the history and consequences of slavery and serves as an educational tool to raise awareness about the current dangers of racism, prejudice and the lingering consequences that continue to impact the descendants of the victims today.
The Permanent Memorial acknowledges one of the most horrific tragedies of modern history. It is a reminder of the heroic actions of the slaves, abolitionists and unsung heroes who acted in the face of grave danger and adversity.
The Memorial's placement at United Nations Headquarters is a significant symbol of what the world body represents: the promotion and preservation of the dignity and worth of all human beings - principles that are central to its Charter.
In an effort to acknowledge the tragedy of slavery, racial prejudice and the lingering consequences of the centuries-long enslavement of and trade in Africans supplied to the colonies of the Americas and beyond, the General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/62/122 in December 2007 entitled: Permanent Memorial to and Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This was the second of four successive resolutions on the issue.
Recognizing how little is known about the more than 400-year-long transatlantic slave trade and its lasting consequences, the resolution welcomes the increased attention that the General Assembly brought to the issue when it observed, for the first time on 25 March 2007 through resolution A/RES/61/19, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, including the raising of its profile in many States.
The Permanent Memorial initiative should also be viewed, in a wider context, as a partial fulfilment of paragraph 101 of the Durban Declaration, adopted as an outcome of the international conference against racism held under the auspices of the United Nations, in Durban, South Africa in 2001. The paragraph, inter alia, calls upon the international community to honour the memory of the victims of slavery.
Resolution A/RES/63/5, adopted by consensus in October 2008, stresses the importance of educating and informing future generations about the causes, consequences and lessons of the slave trade and slavery, and welcomes the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) proposal to erect, "at a place of prominence at United Nations Headquarters that is easily accessible to delegates, United Nations staff and visitors, a permanent memorial in acknowledgment of the tragedy and in consideration of the legacy of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade".
A Committee of interested States was established to oversee the permanent memorial project, drawn from all geographical regions, with Member States from the Caribbean Community and the African Union playing a primary role. Additionally, the initiative has the full endorsement of the UN Secretary General, who has directed the UN Office for Partnerships to assist the Permanent Memorial Committee with technical advice and strategic guidance for its implementation.
In November 2009, the General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/64/15 by consensus. The resolution, which was co-sponsored by 147 Member States, endorsed the establishment of a Trust Fund, and welcomed the appointment of the Goodwill Ambassador. It also speaks to the role of UNESCO in launching an international design competition for the permanent memorial, as well as to assist the Committee in defining guidelines for the selection process.