Posted on June 13, 2023

U.N. Forum Will Define International Obligations to People of African Descent

Karen Juanita Carrillo, Amsterdam News, June 8, 2023

The weeklong convening of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD) brought 900 people to the United Nations’ New York headquarters. They arrived eager to add proposals about what needs to be done to enhance the lives of Black people {snip}


Once inside, however, activists joined non-profit and governmental representatives to talk about the concept and possibility of reparations for African enslavement; the ideals of Pan-Africanism and its suggestions for how to deal with past injustices and what to push forward for in the future; the racism and other difficulties people of African descent are facing as they migrate from war torn or failing nations; the methods of collecting and distributing high-quality and timely employment, economic, age, geographic, and economic statistics on Black populations; and the practices communities can use to promote health and well-being, while dealing with intergenerational trauma.

Epsy Campbell Barr, the former vice president of Costa Rica, chairs the PFPAD. {snip}

Campbell Barr said that the calls for the extension of the International Decade for People of African Descent, which was originally declared for the years 2015 through the end of 2024, are because the U.N. was not able to get full commitments about promoting wider recognition and the social and economic development of Black communities from most countries. {snip}

One of the decade’s main achievements, though, was the establishment of the Permanent Forum. {snip}

“The Permanent Forum of People of African descent has the mandate to work to establish the Declaration of Human Rights of people of African descent,” Campbell Barr said. The final product will be a document that shows the U.N.’s commitment to African descendants in the Americas and throughout the world. “It will be the main important document and commitment of the U.N.” to Black people.

That’s why it was important to feature the input of civil society groups during the forum, Desiree Cormier Smith, the U.S. State Department’s first ever Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice, told the AmNews: “The International Decade, we championed the creation of it. We have been commemorating it under this administration and we believe it is important,” Cormier Smith said.

The U.S. government has been widely criticized for not heralding the importance of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA) which was adopted 21 years ago at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance. The World Conference against Racism helped push the U.N. to create a decade for recognizing the global Black diaspora.

The problem the U.S. has with the DDPA, Cormier Smith said, is “it’s singling out of Israel and then some restrictions on free speech which are counter to our constitution.” She insisted that that doesn’t mean the U.S. doesn’t agree with the aims of the DDPA. “Let me be clear on that. The Durban Declaration and Program of Action is meant to be a blueprint on how member states can work towards the elimination of racial discrimination, intolerance, and xenophobia. We agree with those aims; we are committed to those aims. We just don’t agree with the DDPA as a policy.”