U.N. Development Goals Should Include Anti-Racism Targets

By Thelma Mejía

TEGUCIGALPA, Aug 22, 2011 (IPS)

The first world summit of people of African descent, held in the city of La Ceiba on Honduras’s Caribbean coast, ended with a declaration calling for the fight against racism to be included in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).In the “La Ceiba Declaration”, delegates from more than 40 countries meeting at the Aug. 18-21 United Nations-backed conference said it is time for the U.N. to incorporate not only a new MDG, but also to design a Human Development Index that would include “a racial and ethnic perspective.”

“The United Nations should adopt a racial and ethnic perspective in the Millennium Development Goals to guarantee the integration of the challenges facing Afro-descendant communities or populations,” the Declaration says.

It also calls for the adoption of a ninth MDG “involving a substantial reduction of all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related forms of intolerance.”

The MDGs, adopted by the U.N. member state in 2000, set out specific goals for reducing extreme poverty and hunger, promoting gender equity and empowerment of women, universal primary education, maternal and child health, combating major diseases, working for environmental sustainability and achieving a global partnership for development, to be met by 2015.

Discrimination in every form deepens the gap between the living conditions of blacks and those of other social groups, hindering progress towards the MDGs due to the poverty and stigma faced by people of African descent.

Urging the U.N. to declare a Decade for People of African Descent, the more than 700 people meeting at the conference called for the creation of a U.N. fund to boost development and fight poverty in black and indigenous communities, as well as clearly defined structures and proposals. The same recommendation was set forth to the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the European Union.

The event was held in the city of La Ceiba, which is set in a tropical Caribbean paradise and is home to one of the largest communities of Honduras’ Garifuna people – descendants of African slaves who survived shipwrecks in the 17th century and intermarried with members of the local Carib tribe.

The participants in the conference held to mark the [ http://www.un.org/en/events/iypad2011/ ]International Year for People of African Descent (2011), declared by the U.N., discussed the problems and challenges faced by black populations around the world, and took a look at compliance with the declaration adopted a decade ago at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and. Related Intolerance held in Durban, South Africa.  They also outlined proposals for new ways of living up to the agreements reached in Durban.

Céleo Álvarez Casildo, the main organiser of the La Ceiba summit and the head of the Organisation for Community-based Ethnic Development (ODECO), a Honduran NGO, told IPS: “We don’t want empty political promises. This meeting is being held to demand greater inclusion of our demands and rights, which we will follow up on with a Plan of Actions and follow-up measures.

“This summit, as we have called it, is not just another conference. It is the starting-point of a process to get our voices heard. Gathered here is a united global and spiritual force determined to be heard, in order to foment sustainable human development based on equality for all,” he said.

Mohamed Chambas, secretary general of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group, said the challenge is “to sustain this process; the seed was planted here, and it must be watered in order to make it grow and bear fruit.

“No society can deny the importance of the community of people of African descent in the world. They have to include us, and here in Honduras that effort has taken on new momentum,” he told IPS.

The summit also discussed compliance with international treaties against racism and discrimination, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, human rights and access to justice, environmental problems, reproductive health, the marginalisation suffered by women of African descent, and black culture and identity.

Marcela del Mar Suazo, regional director of the Latin America and Caribbean office of UNFPA, the U.N. population fund, told IPS that a report on the human rights of people of African descent in the region was presented in the panel on gender inequality.

The study says there are 150 million blacks in Latin America and the Caribbean, the great majority of whom live in [ http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=28752 ]conditions of inequality.

The report added that racism and discrimination against black women is especially strong in some countries.   The summit called for policies that would guarantee greater political participation and access to education at all levels, focused on a validation of the culture and capacities of people of African descent.
The minister of ethnic groups in Honduras, Luís Green, told IPS that the government of Porfirio Lobo was getting ready to incorporate constitutional reforms that declare this Central American country a multiethnic and multicultural nation where “there will be no room for discrimination and racism.” (END)