The Lost International Decade for People of African Descent
By José Francisco Ávila
I recently announced that as disruptive forces continue to upend society, I will take a different spin on my activism and advocacy, by engaging in critical thinking, research, and reflection about society, seeking solutions for specific issues! This is the first article as a critical thinker. One of the many things I’ve learned over the past 30 years of social activism and advocacy, is that facts by themselves guarantee nothing. Without organization or participation, they will remain just a fact.
The International Decade for People of African Descent is a perfect example, proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 68/237 on November 18, 2014, to be observed from 2015 to 2024, commencing on 1 January 2015 and ending on 31 December 2024, with the theme “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development”. Four years after its proclamation, it’s difficult to find any concrete evidence of implementation. The problem is that the implementation of the program ofactivities is dependent on the United Nations Member States, such as the United States.
However, it wasn't until February 14, 2019, that Representative, Henry C. "Hank Johnson," Jr. [D-GA-4] finally introduced House Resolution 133 - Supporting the goals and ideals of the designation of January 1, 2015, to December 31, 2024, as the "International Decade for People of African Descent”.
Bills and resolutions are referred to committees which debate the bill before possibly sending it on to the whole chamber (GovTrack). Resolution 133 was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. On March 14, 2019, the resolution was referred to the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.
A bill must be passed by both the House and Senate in identical form and then be signed by the President to become law (GovTrack). Taking into consideration that the 116th Congress convened on January 3, 2019, and will conclude on January 3, 2021. With the current state of American politics, what are the chances that the Legislation will be enacted by the end of the 117th Congress (2022 – 2024), the end of the International Decade for People of African Descent?
The precedent for this bill, is Resolution H.R. 40 (105 th), introduced on January 7, 1997 during the 105 th Congress, 1997–1998, by former Representative John ConyersJr., Representative for Michigan's 14th congressional district, a bill that would establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery in the U.S. and its early colonies, and recommend appropriate remedies. Representative ConyersRe-introduced updated legislation up until his resignation from Congress in 2017. On March 8, 2018, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee assumed first sponsorship of Resolution H.R. 40 and reintroduced it since Legislation not enacted by the end of a Congress is cleared from the books.
Another barrier confronted by the Decennial, is the fact that the proclamation is based on the comprehensive United Nations frameworkof the Durban Declaration. The United States and Israel, withdrew from the 2001 conference over objections to a draft document equating Zionism with racism. (Wikipedia).
Furthermore, the other key participant in the implementation process, is the Civil society, which is understood as the "third sector" of society, distinct from government and business. This sector is represented by Civil Society Organizations, which the United Nations describes as “The Non-State, not-for-profit, voluntary entities formed by people in the social sphere that are separate from the State and the market. CSOs represent a wide range of interests and ties. They can include community-based organizations as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs).”
The Central American Black Organization, known by its Spanish acronym ONECA, is a network of organizations from Central America and the United States of America, which brings together organizations of African descent from civil society. However, Afro descendant Latin American organizationstend to be underfunded and to rely heavily on volunteer labor, which is not unusual for identity-based organizations that grow out of social movements. Volunteers are important, but it is unreasonable to require the most burdened members of the project, in this case African descendant beneficiaries, to undertake full responsibility for implementing core elements of a program without adequate financial support.
I was not able to find ONECA’s plans for the implementation of the program of activities forThe International Decade for People of African Descent. According to the Report “Afro-Latinos in Latin America and Considerations for U.S. Policy” published in 2008, assisting Afro-Latinos has never been a primary U.S. foreign policy objective, although a number of U.S. aid programs benefit Afro-Latinos.
As I’ve learned over the past 30 years of social activism and advocacy, facts by themselves guarantee nothing. Without organization or participation, they will remain just a fact. The International Decade for People of African Descent is a perfect example. While it was proclaimed by the United Nations on 18 November 2014, our years after its proclamation, it’s difficult to find any concrete evidence of implementation. It was just last February that House Resolution 133 - Supporting the goals and ideals of the Decennial, was introduced in the US Congress; Civil Society Organizations such as the Central American Black Organization, tend to be underfunded and to rely heavily on volunteer labor. Facts by themselves guarantee nothing, without organization or participation. The facts I describe above, forecast a Lost International Decade for People of African Descent!