The Movements for the Liberation of African people, on the continent and throughout the diaspora, have a valuable tool in their possession that they are sorely underutilizing. This tool is the International Decade for People of African Descent, also known as “the International Decade”.
The International Decade for People of African Descent is officially a vehicle of the United Nations (UN), intended to foster collaboration and cooperation amongst the nation-states of the world to honor the contributions of people of African descent to world civilization and to address the ongoing problems confronting them the world over. The International Decade for People of African Descent is a prolonged outcome of the 3rd World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. After more than a decade of advocacy and pressure applied by the forces of civil society specializing on issues pertaining to people of African descent and the Pan-African social movements, the International Decade was officially adopted and approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2012 and launched on December 10, 2014.
The International Decade for People of African Descent as noted, would not have been adopted without the persistent advocacy of civil society organizations and the social movements. It is therefore as much a people’s instrument as it is an inter-governmental instrument, and it should be utilized to the fullest extent possible to advance the demands of African descendants and Africans throughout the world as they manifest themselves internationally and in individual national-state contexts.
Our liberation movements must use the opportunity of the decade to press our demands, educate our communities and allies, organize our communities, and mobilize all those who stand against racism, white supremacy, Afrophobia, and xenophobia to action to advance on our strategic vision(s) and program(s) of liberation by decolonizing power and knowledge. While the recognition of the United Nations provides a level of legitimacy and opportunity, it is not without conflict and struggle. The thematic focus of the International Decade, as determined by compromises within the General Assembly of the United Nations is: “recognition, justice, and development”. While these broad themes enable a degree of political flexibility to both the governments and the social movements, it should be noted that these themes and focal points are considerably weaker than what the forces of civil society and the social movements fought for. The primary thing that was fought for was reparations for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, enslavement, and the discriminatory policies aimed at people of African descent that were adopted in countless nations after the formal abolitions of chattel slavery.
Although the United Nations passed and launched the International Decade, it has done so in a rather lackluster fashion. The official United Nations program has not been printed, and thus not distributed in a wide manner to raise awareness of the Decade. And there is essentially no budget for the implementation of the program they collectively devised, nor any of its activities. This shortcoming has two sources: One, the deliberate sabotage of key players within the United Nations, in particular the United States, Canada, the European Union and Israel, who have fought tooth and nail against the implementation of any aspect of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action, or anything strongly supporting reparations. The other is the failure of civil society organizations and the social movements in forcing the issue hard enough.
This is a call to action to the social movements and the forces of civil society concerned about the fundamental issues germane to people of African descent to come together and seize the opportunity presented by the International Decade for People of African Descent. Let us make the decade what we need and want it to be. Let us make it the “Reparations Decade”, to rectify the injustices of the slave trade, enslavement, colonial subjugation, and racial discrimination worldwide.
The proposed first step is for us to gather our forces and develop a “people’s program” for the reminder of the International Decade (which ends December 31st, 2024) and beyond. We have to put reparations firmly back on the world’s agenda. And we have to deal with the rise in anti-African or anti-Black racism throughout the world, systemic attacks on migrants of African descent, the persistence of economic inequality and inequity confronting African descendants throughout the world, ongoing imperialist imposition, exploitation and colonization of nation-states with high concentrations of people of African descent, and the threat of climate change, which is and will have a major impact on Africa and the nations of the Caribbean and South American with significant numbers of people of African descent.
We want to propose that we use the occasion of the upcoming World Social Forum (WSF) being held in Montreal, Canada August 9th – 14th, 2016 as a first rallying point. We propose that we focus on organizing the following at this WSF: a thematic programming track to highlight our issues and programs and to educate existing and potential allies, organize a thematic tent to use as a meeting and planning space, and organize a series of plenaries to give central focus to our issues and demands before an international audience existing and potential allies.
We further propose that following the WSF, we organize a series of international gatherings over the course of the next 4 years to sharpen our collective program and continue to elevate and advance the demands of the “Reparations Decade.” We propose that one meeting be held in the Caribbean, one in South America, one in Europe and one on the African continent.
If you agree with this general call to action, we ask that you do the following:
1. Join us for an international organizing process commencing in March.
2. Plan to attend and make a programmatic contribution at the WSF in Montreal.
3. Make a preliminary commitment to join in the continuation processes and projects that emerge from the Montreal gathering.