- Pierre Hazan, Senior Advisor at Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue; Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy
The war in Ukraine has demonstrated the rift between the West and the “Global South”, the latter which represents 85 percent of the world population. The Russian invasion of Ukraine not only violated the UN Charter, it was also an act of aggression committed by a colonial power against the territorial integrity of a sovereign state. But it was not perceived as such in the “Global South”. It views the Western world as preaching a rule-based order but using a double standard on many issues, such as refugees, vaccines, international criminal law, and more. This perception is reinforced by the legacy of the crimes committed by the Western colonial powers in the 18th and 19th century, and the systemic racism that endures.
This rift is taking place at a time of increasing international tensions, and geopolitical and economic shifts. The tension between the former colonial powers and their former colonies needs to be addressed. We have to reshape the relationship between them and mitigate further tension and crisis. A number of steps have been recently taken to deal with the lingering issues of the past (see below). This work should be expanded: for European internal political reasons (becoming a more multicultural society); geopolitical and economic reasons (avoiding loss of influence and access to raw materials and markets); security reasons (terrorism, migration, pandemics); and, last but not least, moral reasons (consistency between norms, values, and policies).
Since the murder of George Floyd in the US on 25 May 2020 and the ensuing mass protests worldwide, there is, as the UN High-Commissioner stated in her 2021 report, “an acknowledgment of the systemic nature of the racism (…) and the need to address the past in order to secure future conditions of life that uphold the dignity and rights of all”.
A number of steps have recently been undertaken to address colonialism, slave trade, and their legacy. All of these initiatives have been made on an “ad hoc basis”. They add to other initiatives dealing with restitution and changes taking place in the museums (new displays, contextualization), in public spaces (statues, street names), in popular culture (films, exhibition, events) as well as by the publication of some UN reports and EU resolution dealing with these very issues.
These recent initiatives demonstrate that a window of opportunity is opening to address on a European scale the issue of the colonial past and its legacy. Against this backdrop, an open discussion is due to learn from these initiatives and reflect upon the next steps.
The workshop will address three questions related to the issue of reparation:
Compare the ongoing situations being discussed in former colonial powers – Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, France – and its significance for the UN and beyond.
Identify common grounds and common challenges.
Discuss possible options for the future.
Registration for this event is closed.