African Union Continental Symposium opens

Patience Gbeze, GNA

Accra, Sept. 18, GNA – 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

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.   


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