Inter-American Forum against Discrimination: Afro-descendant movement demands OAS member states to ratify the Inter-American Convention Against Racism and the creation of a Permanent Afro-descendant Forum at the OAS

The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), together with the Network of Afro-Latino, Caribbean and the Diaspora Women (Red de Mujeres) and the Center for the Development of Black Peruvian Women (CEDEMUNEP), hosted the Inter-American Forum against Discrimination on April 9, in preparation for the VIII Summit of the Americas being held in Lima, Peru. Over 60 activists from the region including from Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, Bolivia, Panama, Colombia, Uruguay, Brazil and Peru, exchanged experiences on the participation of afro-descendants in the Summit process, and in other activities at the Organization of American States (OAS).

The objectives of the Forum were to promote the effective participation of afro-descendant organizations in the VIII Summit of the Americas, to better understand the situation of racial discrimination facing the afro-Peruvian population, and to present a report on the situation of Afro-descendants in the region as a whole.

Margarette May Macaulay, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-descendants and against Racial Discrimination, began the Forum by stressing the important need for afro-descendant civil society in the region to pressure their respective States to ratify the Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance. The President, while at the same time, was self-critical of her own entity and asked the participants to demand that the IACHR incorporate greater ethnic diversity within its internal governance.

Two women from the Red de Mujeresnetwork, Vicenta Camusso and Paola Yañez, presented the report on the “Situation of Afro-descendant Persons in Latin America and Policy Challenges to Guarantee their rights”; developed with the support, among others, of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) and the UN Population Fund Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNFPA). The report findings showed that afro-descendant men and women of the region are largely disadvantaged across multiple social indicators, with respects to the non-afro population. According to the study, “poverty, illness, the lack of education, security and opportunity have established themselves within the roots of structural racism”,  stated Ms. Camusso. Also discussed in the report was the importance of giving accurate statistics on the Afro-descendant population in the region – a process which was initiated with census rounds in 2010.

In addition to the report, Antonio Quispe and Alex Arguedas of the Afro-Peruvian movement spoke about Afro-Peruvians’ political participation in the development of Peru and gave a brief overview of the history of the movement within the country.

Furthermore, Rodnei Jerico da Silva of Geledes – The Brazilian Institute of Black Women – spoke about how the Afro-descendant movement has been advancing itself more and more into the OAS agenda, and highlighted how the Afro-descendant regional movement played a vital role in the creation of the IACHR Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-descendants and Against Racial Discrimination. Mirtha Colon, president of the Central-American Black Organization (ONECA) also called for unity within the Afro-descendant movement to effectively combat structural racism in the continent; Alessandra Ramos, a Transgender Afro-descendant woman from TRANSFORMAR in Brazil, spoke about the importance of intersectionality when fighting against racism and Transphobia in the region.

Finally, Cecilia Ramirez of CEDEMUNEP, who was elected speaker of the afro-descendant coalition at the Summit, explained the process of participation for Afro-descendant members of the Coalition, and how a document was drafted which, in essence, demands the creation of a Permanent Afro-descendant Forum within the OAS, as well as the ratification of the  Inter-American Convention Against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance.

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