UNITED NATIONS._ More than 15 million human beings were victims of the transatlantic slave trade for four centuries, a phenomenon that still has its impact on Afro-descendants around the world.

The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, and France were the main slave traders of black men, women and children, a lucrative business that resulted in a vast and yet unknown loss of life for African slaves because many of them died during the journey.

More than 15 million human beings were victims of the transatlantic slave trade for four centuries, a phenomenon that still has its impact on Afro-descendants around the world.Experts on the issue have warned that one of the worst human rights violations ever has not yet been compensated despite the time elapsed.

According to Jamaican academic Verene Shepard, the European countries with historic responsibility in the transatlantic slave trade must apologize for and somehow repair the damage caused.

Doing so would be an act of justice, a way of correcting a historical error that has transcended time, she told The Havana Reporter during the launch of the International Decade for People of African Descent at the United Nations headquarters in late 2014. The expert with the UN Working Group on People of African descent said the apologies and reparations must be made before the year 2024 ends, to thus be able to advance toward the eradication of race discrimination, one of the scourges inherited from slavery.

Shepard and the other members of the working group created in 2002 as suggested by the World Conference against Racism held a year earlier in Durban, South Africa, are not the only ones demanding reparations from the former metropolis for slavery.

In 2013 the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) agreed to begin holding actions to demand compensation from European powers for the damage caused by the Atlantic slave trade, the genocide of indigenous peoples, and the introduction of slavery.

Caribbean leaders have ever since been advocating that initiative at the United Nations.


The Transatlantic slave trade took place from the 16th to the 19th centuries under the pretext of the need for agricultural workforce and the alleged inferiority of the black race.

In addition to having a negative impact on the language, culture, traditions and religion of millions of African people, that phenomenon was a hard blow to the African economy, because of the considerable loss of workforce. Slavery also brought about the appearance of race-based stereotypes and a legacy of racism that has affected all countries alike.

Regarding this, Shepard regretted the fact that black people are associated with crime, have less employment opportunities, and are frequent victims of violence, intolerance, and xenophobia.

Police checkpoints and border patrol agents frequently show a racist profiling and consider Afro-descendants potential law violators, she noted. The Jamaican expert considers that this situation must change with the support of the entire society and political will from the governments.

“The International Decade for People of African Descent should provide a major contribution, and we hope to have a very different panorama when the decade is over,” she said.

Access to education and the adjustments needed in the judicial system may well contribute a lot to achieving that goal, Shepard stressed.

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