The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, celebrated the Inter-American Forum Against Discrimination on June 16 and 17 in Cancun, Mexico together with sixty Afro-descendant and LGBTI partners from Mexico and throughout the hemisphere. The Forum was held for members of civil society in advance of the 47th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) to coordinate advocacy efforts at the OAS General Assembly to promote the ratification of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance and the Inter-American Convention against all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.
The two-day event also sought to help Afro-descendant and LGBTI organizations to better understand the OAS and its functions, to increase the number of these organizations registered at the OAS and to better understand the human rights situation of Afro-Mexicans.
The Forum began with a reflection on the recent murder of Afro-Colombian activist Bernardo Cuero and included testimony from Erlendy Cuero Bravo, Vice-President of the Association for Displaced Afro-Colombians, on her colleague’s work and the threats faced by Afro-Colombian human rights defenders.
Margarette May Macaulay, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Rapporteur on the rights of Afro-descendants and against discrimination expressed her deep concern over Bernardo Cuero’s murder. “I hope to be present at the future hearing when the facts of his case are presented,” Commissioner Macaulay said. The Commissioner implored the Forum’s participants to strengthen their ties with the Commission and the Rapporteurship and to increase the flow of information from civil society to the Commission. She reaffirmed the Rapporteurship as a faithful ally of those fighting discrimination in the hemisphere.
Afro-Mexican leaders spoke of the pressing issues facing their communities. Sergio Peñaloza of Mexico Negro summed up Afro-Mexicans invisibility, recalling a Mexican official who said Afro-Mexicans “can be found in the archives, because they used to exist in colonial times, but not anymore.” Afro-Mexican panelists Eva Gasga, Torres discussed their efforts to increase recognition of Afro-Mexicans’ contributions as well as the challenges facing the community. Two principal initiatives were discussed: the work to improve census data collection ahead of the 2020 census—to better capture the full dimensions of Afro-Mexicans’ reality—and work to promote constitutional recognition of Afro-Mexicans at the federal level.
Recap of the Inter-American Forum Against Discrimination
Civil society members from throughout the region—representing Afro-descendant and LGBTI organizations—presented their experiences conducting advocacy work at the OAS, including work at the General Assembly and the Summit of the Americas, as well as public hearings before the Inter-American Commission, imparting lessons learned from this work and helping to expand collective knowledge of those assembled about challenges and best practices in working with the OAS.
Carlos Quesada, the Institute’s Director, emphasized the importance of the two Inter-American conventions against discrimination, as well as the importance of civil society’s understanding of the documents. “It’s not enough to ask our governments to ratify the conventions. We must become experts in their content and how to apply them,” Quesada said.
The Forum also included workshop for LGBTI participants led by Daniela Santana, Fellow at the Inter-American Commission’s Rapporteurship on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex persons. Commissioner Macaulay also held a working meeting with Afro-Mexican leaders.
While the two-day Forum began on a somber note, reflecting on the life and death of Bernardo Cuero, it ended with encouraging news from Colombia. Erlendy Cuero Bravo informed the group that at least one of the suspected perpetrators in his death had been found and detained.