The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights held a public event in Bogotá, Colombia on April 28 to release its latest report, The First Decade of the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Persons of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination: Challenges and Opportunities. The event included participation by Margarette May Macaulay, Commissioner at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and current Rapporteur for Afro-descendants and on the Rights of women.

During his presentation, Carlos Quesada, the Institute’s Executive Director, recalled the build-up to the creation of the Rapporteurship, making clear that it was possible because of the active role of many Afro-descendant organizations in the region as well as the support of the Brazilian government. Mr. Quesada offered a critical perspective in his evaluation of the first ten years of the Rapporteurship. He recognized the importance of the activities it has carried out, but argued that the impact of these activities has been significantly limited by the fewer resources assigned to the Rapporteurship in comparison to others at the Commission, as well as the lack of internal political will to strengthen the institution.

Rapporteur Margarette May Macaulay concurred with this evaluation and offered several ideas aimed at identifying ways to strengthen the Rapporteurship in the medium term. One priority she identified was to consolidate and strengthen the work between the Commission, the Rapporteurship, Afro-descendant organizations in the region, and the different human rights mechanisms of the United Nations’ system. Commissioner Macaulay emphasized the centrality of Afro-descendant civil society organizations in activating and strengthening the human rights mechanisms at their disposal. She also underscored the strategic importance of the process to ratify the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (A-68) and the Inter-American Convention against All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance (A-69).

Cecilia Ramírez of the Black Peruvian Women’s Development Center – Centro de Desarrollo de la Mujer Negra Peruana CEDEMUNEP – shared the experience of her organization using the Inter-American system to strengthen its advocacy capacity before both the Peruvian government and society. In an act of self-criticism, she called on the Afro-descendant organizations in the region to be more active in their use of the mechanisms offered by the Rapporteurship. Finally, Jader Gómez of the Black Communities Process – Proceso de Comunidades Negras PCN – made several comments on the content of the report. He noted the critical nature of the report as a positive aspect that helps to better understand the role of the Rapporteurship and to find ways to strengthen it and increase its relevance.

The panelists agreed that the Rapporteurship’s contributions to confronting the multiple problems faced by Afro-descendant communities in the Americas depends on strengthening the Rapporteurship as an institution. To achieve this, and to ensure the effectiveness of the Rapporteurship’s contributions, requires the active participation of Afro-descendant organizations and communities through the systematic use of the mechanisms offered by the Rapporteurship, as well as advocacy work to pressure the Commission to assign greater resources for the Rapporteurship’s work.

Also in attendance at the event were representatives of Afro-Colombian organizations, international aid agencies, human rights organizations, government  representatives and academics.

The Institute will continue to promote the report in other countries throughout the region in similar events and plans to hold a presentation of the report before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the coming months to present its conclusions and recommendations in greater detail.

The full report in English can be found here.