From The Grio — Are you a person of African descent? What do you know about The International Year for People of African Descent? (IYPAD) Should anyone really care?
In 2001, the United Nations staged a major World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa. From this conference, the idea for the creation of an International Year for People of African Descent emerged from the UN Declarations and Program of Action. The United Nations World Conference against Racism also officially recognized the Atlantic Slave Trade as “a crime against humanity for which reparations are due.”
Historically — over the last 50 years — the United Nations has used the idea of “International Year” to draw attention and rally support around important global, social and political issues.
Concurrently, in 2001 the United Nations created the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent ” which is tasked with studying the problems of racial discrimination faced by people of African descent living in the Diaspora and making proposals on the elimination of racial discrimination against Africans and people of African descent in all parts of the world.”
The Working Group observed that “some of the most important challenges that people of African descent face relate to their representation in and treatment by, the administration of justice and to their access to quality education, employment, health services and housing, often due to structural discrimination that is embedded within societies.”
Previously in December 2009, The United Nations General Assembly officially proclaimed the year beginning on January 1, 2011, the International Year for People of African Descent. (A/RES/64/169) (“IYPAD”). “The Year aims at strengthening national actions and regional and international cooperation for the benefit of people of African descent in relation to their full enjoyment of economic, cultural, social, civil and political rights, their participation and integration in all political, economic, social and cultural aspects of society, and the promotion of a greater knowledge of and respect for their diverse heritage and culture”.
It was also established that the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon would initiate a voluntary fund for activities of the International Year and encouraged Member States and relevant donors to contribute to this fund.
On December 10, 2010 (Human Rights Day), The UN officially launched the International Year for People of African Descent, at the United Nation’s headquarters in New York. The Secretary-General made it clear that people of African descent are “among those most affected by racism, steeped in a long and terrible history of fundamental wrongs and the denial of basic rights. “The international community cannot accept that whole communities are marginalized because of the color of their skin.”
Today, there are more than 200 million people of African descents living in the “the New World.” The largest populations of African-Descendants live in Brazil, the United States and Columbia. Brazil has 75 million, US has 40 million and Columbia has 5 million. There are 23 million people of African descent living in the Caribbean.
The majority of people of African descent in South and Central America are for the most part living marginalized lives. During the current recession and in the age of Obama, black people in the U.S. are experiencing some of the highest levels of unemployment and are quickly being undermined by the realities of a new socio-economic and political landscape.
As of the last quarter of 2011, it seems that the world has in large neglected to make maximum use of the United Nations intentions to redouble its efforts in raising awareness of the plight of African descendants in the world.
This can be attributed mostly to the lack of funding available for governments, organizations and civil societies to make full use of the years’ designation. The meager show of support speaks volumes about the level of commitment by the United Nations, member states and agencies to make the International Year of 2011 a major success.
The Obama administration has also not made the year a priority. Somehow, the UN proclamation of IYPAD appears to have been buried in the State Department’s lack of support for the Third World Conference against Racism (Durban III) in New York last September.
The U.S. opted not to participate. It is a shame that the United States has allowed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to derail the importance of the year and significance it holds for highlighting the continued devastating impact of racism and slavery for African-Descendant populations in the world.