There’s a growing call to have the United Nations extend its proclaimed “International Decade for People of African Descent.”

The original declaration was announced by the U.N. General Assembly in 2013. It proclaimed the years 2015 through the end of 2024 as a time to promote wider recognition, stronger avenues to justice, and the social and economic development of Black communities in nations throughout the world.

But as the end of that decade approaches with the coming of 2024, many are saying the decade was not enough time to truly examine and promote the concerns of Black communities.

During the May 30 convening of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD) at the United Nations’ New York headquarters, activists, civil society personnel, and government representatives called for another decade to examine and delineate the issues faced by Black communities.

“The past decade was marked by the international recognition that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights need to be promoted and protected,” Brazil’s Minister of Racial Equality Anielle Franco said at the forum, but those 10 years were not enough. 

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Brazil, she noted, under the authoritarian leadership of its former president Jair Bolsonaro, was put through a period of barbaric authoritarianism that dismantled years of progressive achievements attained by Black Brazilians. During the pandemic, social supports were torn away as COVID-19 ripped through Brazil’s Black population and placed even more burdens on the nation’s Black women.

Franco said her delegation and Brazil’s current president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, are calling on the U.N. General Assembly to reintroduce another decade for people of African descent. “This time let’s focus on the themes of memory, reparations, and justice,” she urged, “so that concrete and imminent actions are developed for the around 200 million people who self-identify as Afro descendants who live in the Americas and also for many millions more who live in other parts of the world.”

A renewed decade must have a detailed plan of action designed to bring life-changing results for Black communities, according to Egypt’s Ambassador Mona Omar. Before launching any second declaration for people of African descent, Omar suggested developing clear goals with time-bound plans. “And these plans should be reviewed and implemented, or we would be just wasting our time and energy,” she said. “Ten years have passed since the launch of the first declaration. What has been implemented should not have taken a decade. Therefore, in the future we should move seriously and more effectively.”

Ben Mansour of the Norwegian Centre Against Racism (NCAR) told the forum that his organization has been in talks with other European anti-racism organizations about proposing a renewal of the decade. He said NCAR’s petition for a new decade states that “as the program activities have generally [not]––or not at all––been implemented by state parties or regional actors as the yearly reports show and the decade has only been adopted by a mere handful of state parties, we petition that the United Nations General Assembly renew the mandate for an International Decade of People of African descent from 2025 until 2034.”

Renewing the decade would be another opportunity to confront the past and current effects of racism on the lives of Black people.

“Change has been slow in coming,” said Nerys Dockery, the representative from St. Kitts and Nevis, in her statement at the Forum. “But change will come: St. Kitts and Nevis stands solidly behind the CARICOM’s 10-point plan that demands that the descendants of…those perpetrators who benefited from slavery and the diabolical trans-Atlantic trade in Africans must return to the scene of the crime, for there is a case to be answered. It also demands that the humanity of the persons of African descent who continue to experience the deleterious effect of that sordid system must also be acknowledged and affirmed: first by way of an apology and then through the implementation of a radical social, political, health, education, and economic justice program.”

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