Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Our Journey to Eliminate Racial Discrimination

Carlos Quesada, our Director of Racial and Ethnic Equality, just wrote the staff a moving email about today being the United Nation’s Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. 
Carlos talked about the incredible journey he and his Latin American partners have been on over the last decade to combat discrimination of Afro-descendants. 

Our partner the Network of Afro-Latino, Caribbean and Diaspora
Women with Former OAS Commissioner María Silvia Guillén
In the year 2000 in Santiago, Chile, Carlos attended the Conference of the Americas to prepare for the World Conference Against Racism held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. 

Those two conferences were pivotal in the fight against discrimination – it was there that governments clearly acknowledged that racism existed and was the cause of “suffering, disadvantage and violence, as well as other serious human rights violations.”  Governments committed themselves to take action to end racial discrimination. 

That is when Global Rights hit the ground running in Latin America working closely with local Afro-descendant partners.  We have worked in Colombia, Brazil and Peru to document and monitor human rights violations.  We have helped partners write hard-hitting reports which they have used as advocacy tools based on their human rights monitoring and documentations.  We have accompanied our partners and Afro-descendant regional networks to regional and international bodies such as the Organization of American States and the United Nations to present their reports so that pressure would be put on governments to take action to alleviate discrimination of Afro-descendants. 

Then, a decade after the conference in South Africa, the UN declared 2011 the International Year of African Descent – a huge step in raising the profile of the issue.  In March 2011, we organized a regional conference with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the OAS.  At the conference, we encouraged the IACHR to produce a report on the situation of Afro-descendants.

As a result, the IACHR released the first-ever report on Afro-descendants in Latin America titled The Situation of Persons of African Descent in the Americas.  The report makes recommendations on how States can take action to guarantee the rights of people of African descent.  Carlos and his partners are now using this report as a tool with governments to advocate for change. 

Finally, Carlos wanted to thank our partners who have worked on this issue including the National Association of Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES), GELEDES,  Institute of Black Women from Brazil, the Center for the Development of Afro-Peruvian Women (CEDEMUNEP),  and the regional networks we have been working with in this struggle, the Central American Black Organization (CABO), the Network of Afro-Latino, Caribbean and Diaspora Women, the Network of Afro-Brazilian Women NGOs, Afroamerica XXI, and the Jacques Viau Network (Dominican Republic and Haiti).

Carlos said in his email that over the last decade the situation for Afro-descendants has improved, but there is a great deal of work left to be done to improve lives.  But, he knows that with such courageous partners, the next decade holds great promise. 

- Susan

Posted by Susan M. Farnsworth

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