Outgoing U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, Challenges Governments To Right Historical Wrongs During Decade For People Of African Descent

The Real African|| By I.K. Cush 
The journey of the United Nations General Assembly to declare 2015 to 2024 the International Decade for People of African Descent began in 2001 after the organization’s World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance which was held in Durban, South Africa.
After the Durban Conference, the United Nations mobilized academic experts from around the world to examine the effects of the European enslavement of Africans on the African existential reality.
Reacting to the experts’ considered conclusions, outgoing secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, observed that “people of African descent are among the poorest and most marginalized communities around the world. They have high rates of mortality and maternal deaths, and limited access to quality education, health services, housing and social security. They…experience discrimination in their access to justice, and they face alarmingly high rates of police violence and racial profiling.”
The Secretary-General then committed the entire United Nations system to participate in the Decade’s activities “from human rights bodies to specialized agencies, funds and programs.” And, challenged governments to “develop and implement creative initiatives that will make a concrete difference to people’s lives.”
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] is leading the way in righting the historical wrongs committed against African people and sensitizing the international community about Africans’ contributions to world civilization.
 “Recognition of African history is very important,” declared Marie-Paule Roudil, Director of UNESCO’s Liaison Office to the United Nations in New York. Ms. Roudil believes that governments must “use African history to fight against racism.”
The Brazilian government, responding to the challenge issued by Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has incorporated African history into its public schools’ curriculum, according to Ms. Roudil. That is not surprising. Ten years ago, Brazil’s Ministry of Education reviewed over 14 books written by Dr. Molefi Asante of Temple University in Philadelphia. Brazil was, therefore, amply prepared to move its public schools’ curriculum to the next level in line with the Secretary-General’s expectations.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, explained that the International Decade for People of African Descent “is an important commitment to the fight against racism.” It will “promote greater knowledge about the cultural heritage of people of African descent, and the many fundamental contributions that they have made to the advancement of humanity.”
However, Mr. Hussein acknowledged that there are still many challenges to confront to ensure that African people have “equal access to justice and equal protection of the law” and that “racial profiling and police violence”, of and against African people, are eliminated.
The challenges are gargantuan and myriad. From the unresolved cases of hundreds of state-sanctioned murders of African Guyanese youths by the regime of Guyana’s former president, Bharrat Jagdeo, to the mass incarceration of African men and women in the United States, to the widespread poverty among Africans across North and South America and the Caribbean, achieving the goals of the Decade will require courage, political will and an unequivocal commitment on the part of all governments to respect the humanity of African people.
UNESCO’s Marie-Paule Roudil sees a silver lining. “UNESCO’s activities in furthering the goals of the Decade have contributed to a change of attitude among several governments, including Brazil, South Africa, the United States and many countries in the Caribbean,” she said. 
According to Ms. Roudil, that change in attitude among governments manifests at the highest levels in many countries. In Guyana, for instance, newly-elected president, David Granger, responding to the “crisis” among Africans in his country is consulting with African civic organizations to build capacity for African Guyanese citizens who were marginalized and excluded from the political economy of Guyana for over 20 years by an Indian-dominated government.
Eric Phillips, head of the Guyana Reparations Committee, elaborated that for over 20 years “there was the purposeful ‘Indianization’ of Guyana. Contracts, state lands, corrupt deals with Chinese and Indian companies, the denial of jobs and equal access to Guyana’s resources were all part of the discrimination against African Guyanese.”
United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has urged all member states to “remain engaged and committed to the Decade at the local, national, regional and international levels.” The Guyana government’s outreach to its African citizens to right historical wrongs should be emulated if Ban Ki-moon’s hope that “a decade from now, the human rights situation of people of African descent worldwide will be vastly improved,” is to be realized.

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