Participants of the African Union Continental Symposium in a group photograph.
African Union Continental Symposium on the Implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent has opened in Accra with call on leaders to create stronger regional and national momentum amongst states and civil society.
Mr Idrissa Kane, the Deputy Regional Representative, United Nations High Commission on Human Rights (UNHCHR), Eastern Africa Office, said the Decade needed greater visibility and implementation on the Continent.
He said stronger leadership was needed to implement the Programme of Activities over the next six years and the African Union was well-placed to do that.
In an effort to minimise the dangers faced by migrants of African descent throughout the world, the United Nations in 2001 organised the Third World Conference against Racism, which led to the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
The three-day Symposium is organised by the African Union Commission, in collaboration with UNHCHR and Citizens and Diaspora Directorate of the African Union Commission.
The Durban Declaration acknowledged that people of African descent were victims of slavery, slave trade and colonialism.
It considered slavery as crimes against humanity with manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia, and called on states to adopt specific steps to help combat racism and xenophobia to protect victims
Subsequently, the UN General Assembly, in a Resolution (68/237), which was adopted on December 23, 2013, proclaimed the International Decade for People of African Descent, 2015 to 2024 on the theme: “People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice and Development”.
Mr Kane said the Decade was a strategy to increase the Commission’s cooperation to realise the full enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights by people of African descent and their full and equal participation in all aspects of society.
“It is meant to improve the lives of people of African descent everywhere. For the next six years, the United Nations system, member States, civil society, stakeholders’ regional organisations such as African Union are to join together with people of African descent to implement the comprehensive Programme of Activities,” he added.
He said: “Of course, during this Decade, we cannot completely reverse the underdevelopment, injustice and discrimination of centuries. But with six short years to go, we must garner greater attention for Decade and spur momentum to take the actions foreseen in the Programme of Activities to improve the human rights situation of people of African descent.”
He said as Coordinator of the Decade, the UN High Commission had been working with all its partners and various stakeholders on implementing the Programme of Activities.
“The UN OHCHR is carrying out an awareness-raising campaign to promote the Decade. We have continued our successful fellowship programme for young African descent. We are assisting states and civil society and complexity of discrimination facing people of African descent,” he added.
Mr Charles Owiredu, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affair and Regional Integration, said despite the guaranteed constitutional freedoms and human rights, people of African descent continued to suffer exclusion, humiliation, impoverishment, racism and racial discrimination in schools, work places and political representation.
He said historically that could be attributed to imperialism and colonialism that resulted in the scramble for Africa, which plunged its people into exploitation and slavery.
He said Ghana had championed and would continue to provide leadership to ensure emancipation of Africa and people of African descent.
“…However, it should be pointed out clearly that our liberation struggle will not be complete if we do not work to eliminate racial discrimination, racism and xenophobia that continue to manifest themselves in inequalities and disadvantages.”
Mr Ahmed El Basheer, the CIDO Director and Head of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of AU Secretariat, extended appreciation to the Government and people of Ghana for the support and hospitality extended to African Union staff and the delegates to the Symposium.
He said they believed that the International Decade for People of African Descent had been launched at a critical time in the history of Africans and Afro-Descendants around the world.