History Department
History Department

Historian appointed as a Vice President of the International Scientific Committee for UNESCO's Slave Trade Route Project

Fri, March 25, 2011
Historian appointed as a Vice President of the International Scientific Committee for UNESCO's Slave Trade Route Project
Prof. Toyin Falola

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) began the Slave Trade Route Project in 1994 as part of its mission to educate and foster tolerance for people of all races.

The ISC membership consists of 20 members. Seven persons comprise the Executive Board, with three Vice Presidents, of which Professor Toyin Falola is now one.

The ISC’s main responsibility is to guide and advise the project to preserve documents, educational materials, create and preserve memorial sites, and promote the myriad contributions to the world that resulted from the African diaspora.

As part of the Executive Board, he will be expected to participate in convening conferences and visitations to project sites. Falola’s distinguished career as a scholar of Africa and his involvement in other international organizations places him in an advantageous position to further the ISC’s objectives.

UNESCO first began at the end of the Second World War in November 1945 and the focus, as now, has always been to facilitate greater understanding among cultures as a way to cultivate peace.

Over the decades, a priority has become the eradication of poverty and racism. Thus, the Slave Route Project’s main impetus is to acknowledge and encourage more “intercultural dialogue” and  “cultural pluralism” by focusing on slavery’s long-term consequences on contemporary societies.

According to UNESCO's website, "Ignorance or concealment of major historical events constitutes an obstacle to mutual understanding, reconciliation and cooperation among peoples. UNESCO has thus decided to break the silence surrounding the slave trade and slavery that have affected all continents and have caused the great upheavals that have shaped our modern societies."

Of particular concern is the creation of new pedagogical best practices for member states of the UN General Assembly with the hope of non-member states adopting them as well. Falola will be responsible for creating dialogue among the experts on UNESCO’s different committees specifically the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, the Committee on Modern Slavery, and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The Statutes of the ISC specify its objectives for the Slave Trade Project as:

  • "...the realization of multidisciplinary research on the causes, modalities and the consequences of the slave trade and slavery…,
  • "the establishment of productive partnerships with academic and cultural institutions as well as civil society organizations…,
  • "promotion of all Slave Route Project activities implemented at various levels and the mobilization and generation of funding, the elaboration of educational programs and material on the slave trade and slavery, in cooperation with the [UNESCO] Associated Schools Project."

Falola will be working to acknowledge what countries have already accomplished through their establishment of National Committees for the Slave Route and to promote the formation of such committees where they do not exist in other UNESCO member states. This is a major goal of the project in breaking the silence.

He is the convener of the Africa Conference held annually for the past 10 years at the University of Texas at Austin campus with hundreds of attendees from the United States and multiple other countries. It is, in fact, taking place this week, March 25-27, 2011.

The conference coincides with the fourth annual International Day of Remembrance, the 2008 endorsement by the General Assembly member states mandating the Global Videoconferences for International Day of Remembrance of Victims of Slavery and Transatlantic Slave Trade to be held on March 25.

As a world renown professor, author of over 100 books, recipient of several lifetime achievement awards, Falola is aptly suited for this new challenge. He mentors hundreds of UT graduate students who then themselves become professors at universities and colleges teaching students bound to become teachers for K-12 and beyond.

He is the Frances Higginbotham Nalle Centennial Professor in the Department of History and a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the university.

Additionally, UNESCO is also participating in the promotion of the 2011 International Year of People of African Descent (IYPAD) that the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed in December 2009.

The IYPAF is coordinated by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a year-long effort to strengthen all nations' efforts to benefit people of African descent. This includes the full economic spectrum that has been denied them from the racial stereotyping that has persisted since the slave trade.

Raising awareness by breaking the silence and the education of young people about slavery and its consequences is crucial for the elimination of racial discrimination.

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