In preparation for the United Nations World Conference Against Racism that will be held in Durban, South Africa, August 31- September 7, 2001, African Governments, African Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and grassroots movement organizations throughout the African World Community, have united and are fighting for the following points to be recognized, and included, in the final Durban Declaration:
African activists and organizers from around the world recently participated in the final Preparatory Committee Meeting for the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Geneva, Switzerland that was scheduled to be held May 21 June 1, 2001. (At the time of this writing we are not sure if the meeting will be extended another week due to the slow progress of the deliberations on the Durban Declaration.) We attended the first week of the meeting and other representatives from our organizations remained for the second week.
Generally, when we use the term Pan Africanism (pan meaning all), we are talking about the belief that people of African descent, throughout the world, share the same racial and cultural characteristics and social and economic conditions as a result of our African origin.
In an effort to try and diffuse the momentum building around the discussion of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade being a Crime Against Humanity and the push for Reparations for African people to be at the center of the discussion in the deliberations of the Durban Declaration, the United States circulated a "Non Paper" to the United Nations World Conference Against Racism Preparatory Committee to clarify their positions.
The United States Non Paper explained that "Our objectives for Durban have remained consistent: a forward looking conference that acknowledges historical injustices and their modern legacy; and results in a balanced final document that will serve as a blueprint for fighting present-day manifestations of racism and related intolerance."
In this context, the United States put forward the position that "It is clear and generally understood that world conferences are not meant to address country specific situations. To do so would polarize discussion in the conference and could seriously jeopardize prospects for achieving consensus on common approaches to combating racism throughout the world
Finally, there are other countries (and many individuals) that believe the primary issue for the conference is some form of international compensatory scheme for the 17th 19th century Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, or for colonialism." The issue of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade impacted African people worldwide and is more than country specific. That is why the demand for African Reparations is also a worldwide issue.
The essence of this United States Non Paper is to try and convince the United Nations World Conference Against Racism Preparatory Committee delegates that it is inappropriate for the issue of the slave trade, colonialism, and reparations for African people to be affirmed at this conference.
We have consistently pointed out, we cannot eradicate racism without a clear understanding of its origins. Racism is based in economics. Colonial expansion and the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade were, at bottom, economic ventures. The consequent need for European Christianity / Catholicism to find a moral justification for its enslavement of and trade in African human beings gave rise to the ideology of racism.
Color prejudice had existed for centuries, but racism, institutionalized and systematized this prejudice into an entire framework of ideas, which permeated and, in return, were reinforced by every institution in European, American (American used in the sense of ALL THE AMERICAS, not simply the United States) and Euro-Pacific (Australia and New Zealand) societies. So much for not looking back. We take the position you have to examine the past in order to understand the present day manifestations of racism.
On the second day of the Preparatory Committee Meeting in Geneva, May 22nd, an article appeared on the Internet that apparently had been published in several newspapers by Christopher Munnion. Munnions article stated "Britain is leading European opposition to African demands that the slave trade be declared a crime against humanity requiring reparations by former colonial powers." In this same article, Munnion reveals that "The U. S. government has gone further by threatening to withdraw aid to African countries if the conference decides to debate the issue of reparations."
NGO participant, Dr. Ray Winbush of the Race Relations Institute of Fisk University reported, "Because of a national holiday in Switzerland (May 24th), business at the United Nations World Conference On Racism 2nd Preparatory Committee was suspended. It was decided yesterday, however, that all Africans and African Descended people should gather at the World Council of Churches headquarters in Geneva to discuss common issues that affect us all
I have used the term historic to describe only two meetings in my life, but today in Geneva nearly 200 NGOs met representing African and African Descendant Non-Governmental Organizations a group for which our ancestors dreamed of. Never before have Africans from grassroots organizations from across the world united to form a group that would press three issues that unify Africans on a global level:
The World Council of NGOs for Africans and African Descendants was a cross section of African people from Brazil, the United States, France, South Africa, Canada, Nigeria, Columbia, Australia, Puerto Rico, and dozens of other nations."
No matter what tactics the United States and European nations use, they will not be able to stop the re-emergence of Pan Africanism. Victory is Ours!
National Black United Front (NBUF)
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