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Wilberforce Institute pays tribute to Kofi Annan

“More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny. We can master it only if we face it together.”

The then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan at the turn of the millennium.

Professor John Oldfield, Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull has paid tribute to Mr Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the United Nations.

He said: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Kofi Annan. He was one of the greatest freedom fighters not just of our day but of all time. His commitment to and compassion for the human rights cause were astounding. And will live long in the world’s memory.”

Professor Oldfield met Mr Annan when the leading diplomat delivered the annual Wilberforce Lecture in Hull as part of city’s Freedom Festival just short of a year ago. On behalf of the Wilberforce Lecture Trust, he also presented Mr Annan with the Wilberforce Medal, in honour of his outstanding contribution to human rights and democracy.

He said: “The year of Kofi’s visit marked the 210th anniversary of the British Slave Trade Abolition Act – a piece of legislation pioneered by Hull’s William Wilberforce MP. I was honoured to hear Mr Annan’s speech which was a powerful mediation on the meaning of freedom in the 21st century and a timely message that tackling slavery very much remains unfinished business in the world today.

Professor Oldfield met Mr Annan when the leading diplomat delivered the annual Wilberforce Lecture in Hull as part of city’s Freedom Festival just short of a year ago. On behalf of the Wilberforce Lecture Trust, he also presented Mr Annan with the Wilberforce Medal, in honour of his outstanding contribution to human rights and democracy.

He said: “The year of Kofi’s visit marked the 210th anniversary of the British Slave Trade Abolition Act – a piece of legislation pioneered by Hull’s William Wilberforce MP. I was honoured to hear Mr Annan’s speech which was a powerful mediation on the meaning of freedom in the 21st century and a timely message that tackling slavery very much remains unfinished business in the world today. 

 

Mr Kofi Annan praised the work of the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute for the study of slavery and emancipation during his visit to the city last year.

A world-leading research centre working towards the end of labour exploitation and slavery worldwide, the Institute continues the pioneering work of one the city’s most famous sons, William Wilberforce MP. Through internationally recognised research and practice, the Institute gives leaders and communities the tools they need to inform policy and practices to help end labour exploitation and slavery worldwide.

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Professor John Oldfield presenting Kofi Annan with the Wilberforce Medal in 2017

“His words were a poignant reminder that the power is in our hands - to learn from history and create a better future. And a call to action to stand together against slavery as vehemently as Wilberforce and his colleagues did in leading one of the greatest human rights movements.”

Professor Oldfield urged people to embrace Mr Annan’s memory and continue championing the cause for emancipation:

“While many of us may take our freedom for granted, it is a sombre fact that this most basic of human rights remains fragile in many countries worldwide. Millions of men, women and children across the world today are routinely trafficked into forced labour, poverty and deprivation. It is estimated there are 40.3 million* people trapped in slavery across the world – and 13,000** in the UK. 

“Kofi Annan remains an inspiration to us all to defend human rights and to take a stand against contemporary slavery: one of the most urgent and most dangerous threats to human rights in the world today.”

 

"His words were a poignant reminder that the power is in our hands - to learn from history and create a better future." Professor John Oldfield, Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation

*There is an estimated 40.3million people trapped in slavery across the world according to the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: a collaborative effort between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM)

** The Home Office estimates there are 13,000 slaves in the UK

 

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