The African Union and the African Diaspora, Part II

Ph.D. | 11/23/2011, 5 p.m.

NOTE: The U.S. Human Rights Network (USHRN) National Human Rights Conference will be held in Los Angeles at the Airport Radisson Hotel from Dec. 9-11. For both Occupy Wall Street and L.A. folks and others involved in the larger struggle for people first and things second, the scheduled speakers include a plethora of those with full resumes of getting things done.

These include Francisco Cali, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) committee member and voice of the Presidential Commission Against Racial Discrimination Against the Indigenous Peoples of Guatemala; Marcela Olivera, Bolivian Water Rights Activist and Latin American coordinator of the Water for All Campaign; Cathy Albisa, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative (NESRI); Radhika Balakrishnan, Center for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL); Chandra Bhatnagar, ACLU; Andrea Carmen, International Indian Treaty Council (IITC); Rosa Clemente, former Green Party vice-presidential candidate and noted Hip Hop activist; Terence Courtney, Atlanta Public Sector Alliance (APSA); Kamau Franklin, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM); Mary Gerisch, Vermont Workers Center; Risa Kaufman, Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School; Pierre LaBossierre, Haiti Action Committee; Gerald Lenoir, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI); Saladin Muhammad, Black Workers for Justice (BWFJ) and Million Worker March; and Efia Nwangaza, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement Center for Self Determination, among others.

The conference will feature plenaries on local issues, global social movements and movement-building. The public is invited.

Now, back to the main point of this article, for those interested in the African Union and its relationship to the African Diaspora (African descendants scattered over the world in various countries) here is part two of the most asked questions regarding that relationship.

7. QUESTION: What does the acronym ECOSOCC mean?
ANSWER: The Economic, Social and Cultural Commission is one of the permanent organs of the AU (not to be confused with the UN's ECOSOCC). It is a grouping of 150 civil society organizations, which are also called NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and CBOs (community-based organizations.) The Diaspora has been designated 20 members of that 150.

8. QUESTION: When does the Diaspora need to be organized in order to accept the invitation to participate as part of the AU?
ANSWER: A date in March 2007 was initially agreed to at the Interim ECOSOCC meeting in 2005, to represent the first gathering of the permanent members of that AU Commission, including voting members from the Diaspora. However, that date was changed to before or by December 2008. ECOSOCC transitioned into a Permanent Commission in September 2008, elected a new chair, A. Muna, and met in November and December 2008, three times in 2009, at least thrice in 2010, and at least four times in 2011, all without the Diaspora representation. Two individuals from the Caribbean and Central America--Khafra Kambon, from Trinidad-Tobago, and Marta Johnson from Costa Rica--were appointed by special AU rules as Diasporan ex-officio representatives to ECOSOCC, but the 20 designated Diasporan seats are still vacant. When do we need to be organized to claim those seats? Right now.

9. QUESTION: What has the AU done to help get the Diaspora organized?
ANSWER: First, the Diaspora has to organize itself; the AU will not do it. However, in 2005, the AU designated the creation of several new groupings in various parts of the world to educate people about the AU and the Diaspora; to monitor and record how community-based groups organized themselves; and to be a networking resource for all such community-based organizations.