On Dec. 18, 2009, the United Nations General Assembly voted to approve 2011 as the International Year of African Descent (including the African Diaspora). This would coincide with the ten-year anniversary of the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Forms of Intolerance (WCAR) held in Durban, South Africa, in August-September 2001. That conference concluded with a 62-page document called the U.N. Declaration and Programme of Action containing over 122 introductory affirmations, recognitions and reiterations, and recommendations for over 219 specific actions.

Additionally, the conference and the subsequent U.N. General Assembly vote established the approved phrase that, “slavery and the African slave trade were crimes against humanity, and always should have been seen as such.”

During the ten-year period between the WCAR and the present, there have been several meetings and conferences to discuss the progress of the Programme of Action in countries worldwide, including the 2002 African Descendants Conference in Bridgetown, Barbados, and the Durban II follow-up conference held in Geneva in 2009. The latter, like the WCAR itself, was a hotbed of controversy mainly perpetuated by Jewish advocates who claimed the original WCAR was simply a forum for anti-Semitism, and any follow-up or related conferences would be second opportunities to continue along that path. Of course, that advocacy, as pungent and relentless as it has been, is and has been wrongheaded.

In point of fact, there were two adjoining conferences in South Africa in 2001, the first an NGO (non-governmental organization) gathering of at least 750 groups from around the world, and, a week later, the government-based WCAR itself. The former did include all sorts of protest marches, demonstrations and noisy discussions, some of which included the Palestinians trying to demonize Israel. But that activity was just part of the overall context and it was never the core of what that NGO gathering was about, and did not form the basis of the document that eventually came out of the NGO portion of the WCAR. That document, by the way, which was supposed to recommend action to the official government-based WCAR held the next week, never got finished in time to even be considered by those governments. The document negotiated by the 120-odd countries that attended the official WCAR barely mentioned the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and when it did, it remained respectful and equitable. It never called Zionism racism. But the advocates of killing any progressive results of the WCAR have hammered their misinformation for over ten years now, even involving President Barack Obama’s administration in the fray as soon as Mr. Obama took office. The controversy has delayed implementation of the Programme of Action and obfuscated consistent monitoring and evaluation of progress against racism.

Thus, the 2011 International Year of People of African Descent was formulated to focus more attention and action specifically on those most vulnerable worldwide to racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. According to Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the U.N., the purpose of the year is, “to strengthen the political commitment to eradicate discrimination against those of African descent, who are among the most affected by racism, and have been denied their basic rights to quality health and education around the world (because of their color). The initiative also aims to promote respect for diversity and cultural heritage.” Governments are to adopt “targets for integration and promotion of racial equity, to assure, in every respect, full integration of those of African descent.””

The regular public, based on several meetings and agreements among caucuses of African descendants themselves, is urged to utilize the following Survey of Current Compliance With the WCAR Programme of Action to look at their own area–national, regional or local–and report on what positive actions are being carried out, if any, to end or substantially reduce racism, sexism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, specifically as it relates to African descendants. The survey results are to be sent to the U.N. Office of the High Commission of Human Rights.

1. Since 2001, has any new legislation been passed in your area that aims at reducing or eliminating racism, sexism, racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia or other forms of intolerance in compliance with the WCAR recommendations? YES NO

2. If Yes, what is the name and primary objective of that legislation? Where can it be found (Is there digital access to it?)?

3. Since 2001, have any new initiatives or projects from your government been implemented to reduce or eliminate racism, sexism, racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia or other forms of intolerance? YES NO

4. If Yes, What is the name (or what are the names) of such initiatives and can you briefly describe it or them? (Please use a separate sheet if necessary.)

5. Since 2001, have any new initiatives or projects from community-based organizations or civil society groups in your area been attempted? YES NO

6. If Yes, what is the name (or what are the names) of such projects? Can you briefly describe it or them? (Please use a separate sheet for the description if necessary.)

7. Since 2001, has there been any positive change in reducing or eliminating racism, sexism, racial and ethnic discrimination, xenophobia or other incidences of intolerance in your area? YES NO

8. Since 2001, have there been any noticeable changes in the educational curricula in your area aimed at teaching youth to become more aware of racism, sexism, racial and ethnic discrimination and other forms of intolerance? YES NO

9. If Yes, can you describe that educational curricula including the grade level at which it is being taught or utilized? (Use a separate sheet to describe it if necessary.)
10. Your information is about what geographical area? Are you currently residing there?

Professor David L. Horne, is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or Non Governmental Organization (NGO). It is the step-parent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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