First of all, I’ve got to say what an overwhelming and totally unexpected privilege it is for me, a long time movie fan, to be here this evening to receive this award on behalf of Steve McQueen someone I regard as one of the greatest directors of his generation, for a movie that I believe will be regarded as an all-time masterpiece.
With 12 Years A Slave Steve has stripped away all the comforting myths that are still sometimes peddled about US slavery and exposed that system for the archipelago of concentration camps that it was, maintained through violence and racism for the purpose of the dehumanisation and exploitation of other human beings.
I’m deeply proud that Steve has agreed to become a patron of Anti-Slavery International because he recognises that that slavery archipelago which he so forensically exposes is still with us
Today a minimum of 21 million people across the globe are subject to the violence of slavery: from the mines of Congo which enslave children to excavate coltan for our mobile phones, to the garment factories of South Asia which enslave girls and young women to produce clothes in such volumes for the global North that each of us here tonight is probably wearing a garment tainted by such slavery, to the World Cup building sites of Qatar, to the private homes of Europe where vulnerable migrant domestic workers often toil in servitude in the midst of our cities.
Slavery is still with us, trapping and brutalising vulnerable people who have sought nothing but decent work. And that blunt fact indicts us all. Poverty will not be ended until slavery is ended, and yet the international community fails to recognise slavery eradication as a fundamental development goal. All our ideals of human rights are challenged by our failure to complete the first great human rights struggle, that to end slavery.
Today across the world there are 21 million Solomon Northrups still struggling for freedom: if those of us who already have that right will only fulfil our responsibility to stand with them then truly, finally we can