Students Staff

20 October 2008

New framework could consign slavery to the past

Colchester Campus

A panel of international experts led by the University of Essex is expected to join forces to create a new framework that would help major organisations around the world make meaningful reparations for the transatlantic slave trade.

At a high profile conference in London this November, Fernne Brennan, of the University’s School of Law and Human Rights Centre, will be joined by an impressive line-up of NGOs, human rights lawyers, trade experts, politicians and fellow academics to discuss the best means of remedying what they believe to be the ongoing “slavery” of poorer nations through ongoing and unfair trade practices.

As well as debating the issues, the aim of the conference is to produce a group of Experts by Experience who are willing to work together to formulate a framework for reparations that would be adopted by influential international organisations such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation and the International Monetary Fund.

Fernne explained: “Current trade practices are inherently and institutionally racist and are designed and manipulated in a fashion that continues to leave large parts of the world impoverished and effectively enslaved. We are not looking for an apology for what’s happened in a colonial past, nor are we looking simply for financial compensation through litigation. We are looking to the past to understand the current and continuing legacy of the slave trade in order to create a new internationally-recognised framework that will guarantee access for families across the world to food, education and healthcare. But the key to achieving that is to look closely at trade.”

As part of her ongoing research into the best way for the West to make reparations for what she and others describe as the ongoing effects of the slave trade, or “African Holocaust”, Fernne has even been delving into her own family history and life in Guyana including looking at the trade of famous products like Demerara sugar which she refers to as “slave sugar”. She added: “It was a fascinating process and it just reinforced even further to me how the system still does not work because of unfair treatment and unfair economic practices and systems.”

‘Colonialism, Slavery, Reparations and Trade: Remedying the ‘Past’? takes place on November 10 at the Brunei Gallery in London. Fernne believes the conference and the establishment of the panel of Experts by Experience could prove to be a major turning point in the ongoing international debate about how slavery and all its ramifications can be consigned once and for all to the past. For further information go to


For further information please contact the University of Essex communications office on 01206 874377 or e-mail

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