Susan Jones, CNS News, May 27, 2011
Only three months to go until the First World Summit of African Descendants, a U.N.-sponsored event that aims to “right historical wrongs.”
The August 18-21 summit in La Ceiba, Honduras, will focus on the socioeconomic conditions of Afro-descendant populations and establish a plan to “ensure development with equity for these groups,” said the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), which announced the event in Washington on Thursday.
The event is part of the United Nations-declared International Year of African Descendants.
“This International Year of African Descendants provides an opportunity to right historical wrongs: in health, education, poverty, land rights, jobs, and financial credit for economic and social progress,” said Pan American Health Organization Director Mirta Roses in a news release. “This celebration is important for recognizing the strength and resilience of Afro-descendant communities throughout the Americas, who have thrived despite historical discrimination and repression.”
Health, contraceptives and social justice
According to PAHO/WHO, compared with Caucasians, the babies of African descendants are more likely to die, their mothers face more risks in childbirth, adult men have higher rates of homicide and HIV, and adolescents are more likely to become pregnant.
At the same time, “equal access to health services and contraceptives remains a challenge,” said Dr. Roses. “This year is a time to celebrate the power of Afro-descendant organizations in challenging and changing these inequalities.”
The summit will provide an opportunity to analyze international cooperation and “close the existing development gaps through concrete commitments, clear strategies, and adequate resources,” said Jorge Ramón Hernández Alcerro, the Honduran ambassador to the United States.
One of the Americas’ pending debts is to “put an end to historical and structural discrimination against African descendants,” said Santiago Cantón, executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). He said initiatives such as the summit are “essential steps” toward ending such discrimination. He said the summit will raise awareness of violations of the human rights of African descendants, and thereby help put an end to them.
Álvarez Casildo said the summit was expected to conclude with a “Declaration of the Decade of African Descendants and the creation of a new fund for Afro-descendant Development.
“The summit is not the end, it’s a means for transformation,” he said. “It’s an extremely important medium to ensure that these voices no longer remain silent.”