LONDON – Former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on Tuesday urged the world's richest nations to atone for the slave trade by sharing their wealth to lift Africa from poverty.
Annan, addressing a joint session of Britain's Parliament, said it was likely Africa would be the world's only region that does not to meet the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations.
"A bold investment in addressing poverty in Africa, as promised by the G-8 in Gleneagles, would be the best way to heal the wounds of the past and turn the page," Annan said, referring to the G-8 meeting in Scotland in 2005.
The Millennium Development Goals, to be achieved by 2015, include a 50 percent reduction in poverty and hunger, a two-thirds reduction in child mortality rates, and universal primary education and access to health services.
Annan's speech reflected on the 200th anniversary of Britain's abolition of the slave trade in its territories.
"Of course the achievement that we commemorate today should never have been necessary. In the long history of human wrongs, the trade in human beings will go down as one of the greatest crimes ever committed," he said.
"Slavery cannot be relegated to the annals of history so long as men, women and children are still being coerced, drugged, tricked and sold to do dangerous and degrading work against their will," Annan said.
He noted that Britain waited 26 years to abolish slavery in its territories, and that it paid compensation not to the freed slaves but to their former owners.
"Many Africans believe history has not yet repaired past wounds at all. The movement for reparations is fueled by the desire for recognition," he said.
"This is a battle better fought in the development domain. In the year 2000, when all member states of the United Nations approved the Millennium Declaration, including the Millennium Development Goals, they acknowledged that all human beings must face a common future, and must do so in a spirit of solidarity based on shared democratic ideals."