Washington, D.C. May 7, 2018. The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) participated in the “5th National Afro-Panamanian Summit – Intergenerational Summit: Preparing Our Future,” which took place May 4-6 in Panama City, Panama. Nearly 80 activists from the various regions of Panama were present in the Summit, including members of Afro-Panamanian organizations, well-known Afro-Panamanian activists, and others. Also in attendance were representatives of the Panamanian government and international actors, such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The Summit featured sessions and roundtable discussions on a variety of topics such as entrepreneurship, education, culture, the electoral cycle for 2019, the strengthening of the National Secretariat for Afro-Panamanian Development (SENADAP), and the 2020 Census.
SENADAP’s Director, Urenna Best, organized a roundtable discussion titled “Strengthening of SENADAP and the Census process” with the help of Race and Equality’s Elvia Duque. The discussion featured Afro-Colombian activist Dora Vivanco (Technical Project Coordinator for the National Conference of Afro-Colombian Organizations – CNOA), who shared the experience of Colombia in developing an effective racial/ethnic self-identification question for the census, through cooperation between Afro-Colombian civil society, academia, and the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE). This cooperation allowed for the development of advocacy tools that were used to promote public policies benefitting Afro-Colombians. Additionally, renowned Afro-Panamanian activist Samuel Samuels shared his experience and the difficulties he faced during the 2010 Census and highlighted the fact that Panama has been omitting the racial/ethnic self-identification questions in the census since 1940. He encouraged participants to demand the government for an adequate inclusion of Afro-Panamanians in the formation and design of the self-identification question.
The Summit also highlighted the importance of actively participating and support the objectives of the Plan of Action for the Decade for Persons of African Descent in the Americas (2016-2025) proposed by the Organization of American States (OAS) and its member states, as well as the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) proclaimed by the UN General Assembly. These initiatives give States a platform to commit to the undertaking of specific actions aimed at combatting racial discrimination and racism, including gathering statistics that reflect the current racial/ethnic situation of each State and the quality of life of the Afro-descendant population. However, a lack of political will has curtailed the implementation of these goals.
Lastly, the need to continue training activists was highlighted – particularly those from distant provinces – to continue supporting advocacy efforts within their respective communities.