International Day for People of African Descent: A Path Towards Reparation for Victims of Racism in the Region
Washington D.C., 31 August 2023.- In Latin America and the Caribbean, a region in which one in four people identify as Afro-descendent, structural racism and racial discrimination are reflected in the unequal access to quality education, unemployment, and a higher rate of poverty. According to the report Afrodescendientes en Latinoamérica, Afro-descendent Latin Americans are 2.5 times more likely to live in chronic poverty.
On the International Day for People of African Descent, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) reaffirms its commitment to guaranteeing and protecting the human rights and fundamental liberties of Afro-descendent people, as outlined in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), and the Plan for the Decade for People of African Descent in the Americas (2016-2025).
Our Work in the Region
Race and Equality works with partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to promote documentation, denunciation, and advocacy processes before the Inter-American System and the Universal System for the protection of human rights, including recently created spaces such as the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD) and the Expert Mechanism to Promote Justice and Racial Equality in Law Enforcement (EMLER). The organization is also recognized for bringing our counterparts to participate in high-level events such as the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS). All of this to support their full and equal participation in all aspects of society, and to promote comprehensive reparation for victims.
In Brazil, where 56% of the population self-identifies as Afro-descendent, Race and Equality works with Brazilian civil society organizations from an intersectional perspective, understanding that racial issues are crossed by gender, territorial, economic, and social vulnerability.
With its racial justice project, Race and Equality and its counterpart Selo Juristas Negras work in the search for justice for women, particularly black women in situations of deprivation of liberty, taking measures for their release from detention centers and their subsequent social, familial, and professional reintegration. In this regard, during our advocacy tour this year in Washington, DC, we arranged meetings of Selo Juristas Negras with African American members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
In Colombia, 599,580 black women have suffered the consequences of the armed conflict, being the most affected population group. Currently, these women have gathered in the Coordinación de Mujeres Afrocolombianas Desplazadas en Resistencia “La COMADRE” and Race and Equality accompanies them in international litigation actions for the process of their recognition as subjects of collective ethnic reparation and their respective reparation as victims of the armed conflict.
This long process began in 2014 and continues without resolution, therefore, Race and Equality has conducted advocacy actions before the Inter-American System of Human Rights (IASHR) that have resulted in precautionary measures that guarantee the protection of the life and personal integrity of La COMADRE. Moreover, we have also conducted international advocacy through the participation of a leader of La COMADRE in the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent; and investigatory and documentary actions of the violations of rights of Afro-Colombian women that show a pattern of systematic violations of their rights.
In Mexico, where the Afro-descendant population is the second largest that faces the most acts of discrimination based on certain conditions or characteristics of human diversity, Race and Equality promoted the “Capacity Building Strategy for the Mexico 2020 Census Campaign,” that generated a nationwide media project focused on strengthening Afro-descendant self-identification with the ethnonyms included in the 2020 Census and resulted in more than 2.5 million people self-identifying as Afro-descendant.
Additionally, in the years 2018 and 2019 we accompanied Afro-Mexican activists in the first and second thematic hearing on the Afro-descendant population before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and the session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). These key spaces have shown that the Mexican state must “redouble efforts and guarantee Afro-descendant people full access to protection and effective resources in national tribunals and other institutions of the state against any act of discrimination and racism, and adopt all legal and effective measures to combat them,” according to activist Gina Diédhiuo of the organization Afrodescendencias.
In Cuba, Race and Equality trains Afro-descendant activists from independent civil society organizations on the Island. Through these diverse training workshops, we have promoted strategies for Afro-Cubans to make racism, the racial discrimination they face, and the obligations the Cuban state has assumed under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination visible.
In Uruguay, we support organizations from Afro-descendant civil society in the elaboration of alternative reports before the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). These documents address ethno-racial inequalities, barriers to access to justice in cases of racial discrimination, the criminalization of religious racism, the concern about the significant percentage of the Afro-descendant population deprived of liberty, and the demand for full reparation for the forced displacements suffered by the Afro-descendant community in times of state terrorism.
Additionally, we have promoted the participation of Afro-Uruguayan organizations in the last session of CERD, in which the state of Uruguay was examined at the beginning of August. At this moment, Race and Equality supported the members of the Organización Social Salvador to hold working meetings and dialogue with representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and with members of CERD in Geneva.
In the Dominican Republic the state has approved laws that endorse the arbitrary deportation and other violations against the rights of migrant Haitian populations and Dominico-Haitians. Race and Equality works with the Movimiento Socio Cultural de Trabajadores Haitianos (MOSCTHA) providing technical support for the promotion of racial justice through trainings, documentation, and the strengthening of the racial litigation work of a network of attorneys.
This year, we supported MOSCTHA in its active participation in the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent and in an advocacy tour in Washington, DC, hosting visits at the United States Congress. For María Martínez, an attorney with MOSCTHA, it is also important to note that, thanks to our joint work “we are part of UNAR -which works on racial justice- and RegionaR, two coalitions formed to -among other things- promote reparation for Afro-descendant victims of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and structural discrimination.”
Our Campaign for a Region Free From Racism
Since 2021, with the campaign “CIRDI 2024, Towards a Region Free From Racial Discrimination”, Race and Equality adopted a regional commitment to promoting on a larger scale the ratification and implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI). In the framework of this campaign, we have trained local organizations to overcome the particular challenges that stand in the way of ratification and full implementation of CIRDI, such as resource gaps, lack of human capacity, and technical expertise.
Furthermore, this year we celebrated the 10th anniversary of CIRDI with representatives from the United States and Brazil, experts, and Afro-descendant, indigenous, and LGBTI+ leaders from the region, in a parallel event to the General Assembly of the OAS; and gave several workshops, such as the webinar “Key tools for monitoring the implementation of an Inter-American Convention,” in which specialists in international human rights law from Brazil and Mexico participated in the company of Paul Spencer, who serves as Senior Advisor for Caribbean Affairs at the IACHR.
These actions, together with advocacy actions by our counterparts, have impelled more than three countries of the region to begin strongly debating the ratification of this important instrument.
Today, August 31st, from Race and Equality, we insist that states adopt concrete measures and practices through the approval and effective application of national and international juridical frameworks and policies against racism, racial discrimination, and other related forms of intolerance. It is imperative that the States of the Americas sign, ratify, and implement CIRDI, as a show of true commitment to facing down these scourges.
Finally, in preparation for the United Nations General Assembly to be held in September, Race and Equality urgently calls for the proclamation of a second International Decade for People of African Descent for the period of 2025-2034, that will contribute to the adoption of new methods to combat structural discrimination and historical inequality faced by the population, to achieve full recognition, justice, and development for Afro-descendant peoples all over the world. Likewise, we call for their active and effective participation in the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD).