I wish to add my words of welcome, as we gather for the National Heritage Week Thanksgiving Church Service. Your attendance is appreciated as we come together in a special gesture of unity and love, under our theme for National Heritage Week 2018 – “One Love… One Family… One Heritage.”
This year, the theme for Heritage Week calls us to recognize that though our forefathers may have come from different lands, have endured, have helped to lay the foundation on which we stand today, we are all one people with a united heritage; all that our collective forefathers embodied.
Our ancestors fought, bled and even died to lay the foundation of our great nation that continues to astonish the world.
Our music, language, food – our spirit and people are like none other. Jamaica is a melting pot, where so many cultures and ideas can become one. In this regard we set an example for the world.
This afternoon we will unveil the statute of one the World’s greatest female athletes, our very own Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce at the National Stadium.
We are doing so within the context of the observation of the International Decade of People of African Descent.
The International Decade for People of African Descent, which runs from 2015 to 2024, was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in a Resolution adopted on December 23, 2013. The theme of the International Decade is “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development”.
The objectives of the International Decade for People of African Descent are to: Promote respect and address the protection and fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people of African Descent, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Promote a greater knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies; and Adopt and strengthen national, regional and international legal frameworks, according to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
The seeds of the International Decade for People of African Descent were sown in 2001 with the third World Conference against Racism, which led to the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The Durban Declaration, in addition to declaring that the people of Africa had been victimized by slavery and continued to suffer as a result, called for states to adopt specific steps to help combat racism and xenophobia and to protect its victims.
During the International Year for People of African Descent, ten years later, the UN called for these efforts to intensify. Two years later, in December 2013, the UN resolved that 1 January 2015 would launch the International Decade for People of African Descent.
On its launch, the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri said: “The road to a world free from racism, prejudice and stigma is rocky. Combating racial discrimination is a long-term effort. It requires commitment and persistence. People of African descent need encouragement and support. Member States have the moral and legal obligation to provide sustained political and financial backing to make the Decade effective and to continue our path toward equal and just societies.”
Last year (2017), Jamaica’s very own Accompong Maroons launched the Door of Return Initiative in cooperation with Ghana and Nigeria, for which Nigeria unveiled the first symbolic monument during its Diaspora Festival in the town of Badagry. The initiative involves erecting a series of monuments across Africa to signify the openness of Africa towards the Diaspora, and is intended to bring new investment to the continent in areas of tourism and sustainable infrastructure development.
As we observe heritage Month, our resolve is to ensure that we acknowledge and respect all of those things that make us Jamaican; that we pay due regard to the things that define us as a nation.
We are truly blessed and we are grateful that the world shows so much interest in us and that our places of interest can attract international accreditation.
Jamaica’s breathtaking Blue and John Crow Mountains were inscribed to the world heritage list of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on July 3, 2015.
The inscription represents the first world heritage site for Jamaica and the first mixed – cultural and natural – site for the Caribbean sub-region, being one of only 32 mixed sites in the world.
Jamaica joins the list of countries with iconic sites such as the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, the Taj Mahal of India, Acropolis of Athens in Greece, Great Barrier Reef of Australia, as well as the Pitons in St Lucia.
World heritage status is given to natural and cultural sites across the globe considered to be of outstanding universal value, meaning sites which possess cultural and natural significance which is so exceptional as to transcend national boundaries and are of common importance for present and future generations.
We are not stopping there ladies and gentlemen. The Historical city of Port Royal is currently under review for inscription as a world heritage site. The experts have visitied and are due to make their recommendation shortly. The world is watching us and as your minister, I will continue to fight to get Jamaica the recognition that is due. We currently have 250 national heritage sites. I want to see more designations and greater development in the areas where the sites are located so that our people may benefit economically and our contribution to national development may be duly recognized.]
Our Heritage is like our birth; we have no choice in the matter. Let us ebjoy and celebrare the coming together of all the elements that make us who we are.
I close with the words of Jamaica’s first national hero, the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, who once said “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Do have a blessed rest of the service and Happy Heritage Month to all.