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University presents Wilberforce honour to Kofi Annan on behalf of city

John Oldfield, director of the University’s Wilberforce Institute recently had the honour of presenting former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan with the Wilberforce Medallion on behalf of the city of Hull.

The medal is given to those who have made an outstanding contribution to human rights and democracy.

Mr Annan was in Hull to deliver a powerful speech as part of the Freedom Festival, which took place earlier this month.

 Mr Annan, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, called for modern day slavery to be tackled as determinedly as Wilberforce had done two centuries ago. He said; “We should take inspiration from the legacy of Wilberforce and the abolitionists who proved that when individuals take personal responsibility and work together, they can transform the world."

In a speech entitled Freedom in the 21st Century, Mr Annan focused on present day threats to the fundamental human right of freedom. In a powerful address he acknowledged the historical dedication of William Wilberforce in ending the hateful slave trade but recognised that the commercialisation of human life still continues in many forms today.

Speaking to the sold out event, Mr Annan told the audience that an estimated 21m people globally are victims of forced labour, many more are the victims of traffickers, hundreds of thousands of children suffer the plight of harsh labour or are forced to fight as soldiers.

The medallion was presented to Mr Annan for the work of his Kofi Annan Foundation, which seeks to mobilise political will to overcome threats to peace, development and human rights.

It was an honour to present the Wilberforce medallion to the Kofi Annan Foundation.  Professor John Oldfield, Director of the Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

Professor John Oldfield, said: "It was an honour to present the Wilberforce medallion to the Kofi Annan Foundation. With 2017 marking the 210th anniversary of the British Slave Trade Abolition Act - a piece of legislation pioneered by Hull's William Wilberforce MP - Mr Annan's visit is a timely reminder that tackling slavery remains unfinished business. Hull is proud to have been central to an abolition movement once before and, with an estimated 21m victims of slavery in the world today - including 13,000 in the UK - our city continues to pioneer the fight for freedom. Our work at the Wilberforce Institute helps to tackle this global problem head on conducting life-changing research, shaping policy and working with business and public-facing organisations to help train staff spot the signs of contemporary slavery."

 Councillor Andy Dorton, Chair of the Wilberforce Lecture Trust, said: "It's been an absolute honour to welcome Mr Annan to Hull in such a transformative year for the city and at the opening of the Freedom season when we stop to reflect on Wilberforce's important legacy to the world."

The Wilberforce Lecture celebrates the historic role of Kingston upon Hull in combating the abuse of human rights personified in the work of the abolitionist William Wilberforce.

 Previous lectures have been given by Archbishop Desmond Tutu; former Archbishop of Cantebury, Rowan Williams, Nigerian playwright, Wole Soyinka and former Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabati.

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