African Descent Summit calls for permanent space at the UN

(Photo: African Descent Summit)

Sources: Cumbre Mundial de los y las Afrodescendientes, El Telégrafo de Ecuador, AIM Digital, REL-UITA.

Eight hundred representatives from organizations in 44 countries in America, Africa, Europe and Asia attended the first World Summit for People of African Descent, which was held in La Ceiba, Honduras. They called for the creation of a permanent forum for the affairs of people of African descent in the sphere the international community.

The conference, which came to an end last Sunday, also resolved to set up "the International Coordination Committee of the World Summit for People of African Descent as a body to coordinate, monitor, mobilize, make proposals, organize and follow up on agreements and action, and to exert political influence” in the name of civil society organizations in these communities throughout the world.

This summit was convoked on the initiative of the Honduran Organization for Ethnic Community Development (ODECO) and has received support from governments, international forums and academics. In its final declaration it called for the use of "all necessary means" to put an end to "all forms of racial discrimination", to guarantee "the full enjoyment of human rights and citizenship for people of African descent" and for "full access to justice for victims of racism" and for people whose "human and collective rights" have been violated.

The representatives of communities of people of African descent demanded that governments should take "affirmative measures" so as to establish "differentiated services" and pursue "progress in education, health, housing, employment, income, access to financing and credit systems, food, information and communication technologies, culture and political processes."

Unlike the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which operates in the realm of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), a forum like the one the World Summit for People of African Descent is demanding would act not only within the UN structure but also in regional organizations including the Organization of American States, the Central American Integration System, the Union of South American Nations and the European Union. 

In addition, the conference called for a development fund for people of African descent to be set up in the United Nations.

The idea of the summit originated with the ODECO in the framework of the current United Nations International Year People of African Descent, and it took form in the final declaration of the Decade for People of African Descent, which is to start in 2012.

The organizations at the La Ceiba conference estimated that the descendants of Africans who were slaves in the Americas, and who are now to be found all over the world as a consequence of a massive migratory movements, amount to more than 1,000 million people, which is approximately 15 percent of the population of the planet.

The meeting in Honduras was convoked "with the main aim of setting a common agenda to tackle the social, economic, cultural, environmental and political inequalities" that afflict communities of people of African descent.

This summit has many forerunners, including five Pan-African Congresses, three Black America Congresses, three World Conferences against Racism, the Regional Conference of the Americas against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Connected Forms of Intolerance (in Santiago de Chile in 2000), the First Continental Summit on the Development of Communities and Populations of African Descent (2000) and the Americas Consultation on People of African Descent (2002), which were both held in Honduras, and two International Africa-West congresses held in Spain (2007 and 2010).

The final declaration includes a reminder to governments, enterprises and regional and international organizations of their obligations to "guarantee people of African descent healthy places to live, work and enjoy recreation, that are free of pollution or environmental degradation", and also guarantee “the protection and continuity of our lands and communities, and guard them against displacement due to military conflicts, urban expansion or natural disasters that threaten their existence”.

While the summit was taking place, the Honduran Black Fraternal Organization (OFRANEH), the Honduran National Coordination of Black Organizations (CNONH) and Alliance 2-14 joined the “Forum on land monopolies in Africa and Latin America”, which functioned as a kind of counter-summit" made up of local communities of people of African descent including the Garifuna.

This is a protest movement against the use of land to plant the African palm, the construction of mega projects for tourism, dams and mining, and the creation of regional spaces for development or model cities.