World powers should consider slavery reparations – UN
The United Nations has advised countries on an array of measures, including financial compensation, for colonialism and the enslavement of people of African descent. The debt remains, despite the length of time that has passed and the difficulty of identifying perpetrators and victims, the document outlines.
“Such difficulties cannot be the basis for nullifying the existence of underlying legal obligations,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in the report released on Tuesday. He emphasized the importance of nations demonstrating a commitment to dealing with the ongoing aftermath of slavery.
“No state has comprehensively accounted for the past and addressed its contemporary legacies” for “violently” uprooting an estimated 25 million to 30 million people from Africa, the report claims.
For decades, African and Caribbean governments and activists have called for accountability for slavery and the colonization of their countries.
In 2021 a senior Jamaican government official told the media that the former British colony was petitioning London for compensation for the Atlantic slave trade. At the time, the Caribbean nation sought 7.6 billion pounds Sterling, or roughly $10.4 billion, in compensation from Britain, which is said to be the amount paid to slaveholders by the colonial power.
Jamaica was reportedly the primary shipment hub for enslaved people. The Spanish and then the British forcibly transported Africans to work on plantations cultivating sugar cane, bananas, and other crops that generated wealth for their owners.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced in July plans by his government to offer technology, specialized professional training catering to Africa’s needs, and industrial and agricultural assistance, as reparations for contributions made by Africans during slavery.
In the report presented to the UN General Assembly, Guterres said that world powers should consider a “plurality of measures” tailored to the specific demands of a country to address slavery-era legacies.
“Under international human rights law, compensation for any economically assessable damage, as appropriate and proportional to the gravity of the violation and the circumstances of each case, may also constitute a form of reparations,” the report stated.
The report also suggested a public apology, medical and psychological rehabilitation, and guarantees of non-repetition as forms of settlement.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said “reparatory justice is not just about addressing the wrongful acts of the past” but also about building inclusive, equal, and free societies without racial discrimination.