The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights held the Inter-American Forum on Afro-descendants on Friday, June 10, 2016, in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in conjunction with the Jacques Viau Network and DominicanosxDerecho. This annual civil society event, planned to coincide with the Organization of American States’ (OAS) General Assembly, this year brought together over ninety Afro-descendant and LGBTI activists from Latin America and the Caribbean.

The main objectives of the Forum were to promote the effective participation of Afro-descendant and LGBTI organizations in the General Assembly and broaden their advocacy opportunities before the OAS, and make more visible the rampant discrimination suffered by Afro-Dominicans and Dominicans of Haitian Descent in the Dominican Republic. To this end, the morning sessions of the Forum focused generally on the situation of Afro-descendants in the Americas, and the afternoon sessions on the specific reality of the Dominican Republic.

During the morning, the Institute welcomed the participation of a diverse array of speakers representing regional and national civil society organizations working on issues related to the human rights of Afro-descendants, as well as a special presentation via Skype by Zakiya Carr-Johnson, Director of the Race, Ethnicity, and Social Inclusion Unit at the U.S. Department of State. Several LGBTI activists also commented on overlapping and intersectional expressions of discrimination faced by both Afro-descendants, and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans, and intersex individuals.

After a theatrical presentation by the group The Twelve Apostles, made up primarily of young Dominicans of Haitian Descent from bateys around Santo Domingo, panelists in the afternoon continued to focus the discussion on the situation of Dominico-Haitians. Speaking first about the historical 2014 decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in favor of the restoration of rights for Dominicans of Haitian Descent, representatives from Dominican organizations that have continued to advocate for these rights commented that unfortunately the Court’s decision has not been implemented. Dominicans of Haitian descent continue to suffer discrimination and have largely been unable to obtain their identity documents; consequently, the number of registered voters in the last general election was ten percent lower than in previous elections.

The Forum concluded with a screening of the the documentary Lives in Transit, which focuses on the experiences of Dominicans of Haitian descent struggling to get their documentation. Participants were also given the opportunity to consolidate advocacy strategies for the Civil Society Informal Dialogue with OAS Secretary General Almagro, which was held on June 12, 2016.