Resolution before the Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) Committee
European Parliament, Alteiere Spinelli Bldg, Brussels, Belgium
Pascal Ntahompagaze,3rd from Right
A resolution was introduced in the Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) of ACP-EU parliamentarians based on United Nations (UN) Resolution 64/169 which declared the year 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent. The Resolution was in the name of Mr. Louis Michel MEP (Member of the European Parliament) and was introduced by Mr. Pascal Ntahompagaze, International Expert in Sustainable Development, Environment and International Politics and Member of the Royal Institute of International Relations.
Mr. Ntahompagze gave a background to the UN Resolution and explained that the stated goal of the Resolution was to achieve Recognition, Justice and Development for People of African Descent.
He was followed by Ms. Joyce Van Genderen-Naar, Legal Advisor of the ACP Civil Society Forum. She spoke about the descendants from the Caribbean living in Europe and the "EC Anti Discrimination Directives" and the obligation of EU Member States to protect all the citizens, including African descendents, from discrimination, who are facing the same problems as the African communities worldwide.
She stressed the importance of the European citizenship for these communities and also the need for more involvement and participation at the level of the European Parliament and European Commission.The citizens should be more informed about this EU legislative framework to prevent and to fight all forms of discrimination.
Next was Roosevelt King, Secretary General of BANGO in his role as Policy & Network Advisor of the ACP Civil Society Forum. He spoke of the plight of African Descendants in the Caribbean and the Americas. He noted that racism and discrimination was firmly institutionalised in the Caribbean and that even though the governments in the Caribbean were mostly made up of people of African descent, the legacy of 400 years of slavery and subsequent colonisation had left these countries with examples of administration that became the blue print for post colonial governance and this system of governance continued even after acquiring Independence from their colonial masters.
Mr. King cited "Black on Black" crime, lack of wealth and the ease with which African descendants plunge into poverty as examples of the results of the legacy and the practice of discrimination.
He noted that 400 years cannot be turned around in one year and called for the Assembly to consider devoting a ten year period of programming to help the African descendants achieve the goals of the UN Resolution. In his closing, Mr. King recognised the presence in the Assembly of Mrs. Mara Thompson MP, Barbados, wife of the late Prime Minister of Barbados, Mr. David Thompson.
MEP Louis Michel made an intervention saying that he was most interested in this matter from the point of view of migration and would like to see African descendants doing well in Europe. He promised to make every effort to hold a major activity on 10th December 2011 to mark the anniversary of the Declaration. He suggested that this could take the form of a cultural expose with any other activities around it.
The Chairperson thanked Mr. Ntahompagze and his team of "experts" and promised wider discussion among members of the JPA on the resolution introduced by him with a view to follow-up action.
After the introduction of the Resolution, a debate was held outside the Assembly in which members of the JPA and several interest groups and NGOs participated. The debate was moderated by Mr. Ntahompagze. This debate raised several issues related to the lack of development of African countries and possible strategies for economic growth.
On the side of the EU NGOs, they called for more anti-poverty programmes, noting that benefits from relationships should no longer be one-sided in the favour of the EU. Their representative said that in the same manner EU expected to benefit from relationships and agreements with ACP countries, the people of these countries should benefit similarly.
Louis Michel reiterated his commitment to projects and embraced several ideas, especially those related to broadening education and its delivery in an African context. The contribution of the African Diaspora to the development of the global economy was acknowledged, as well as the lack of rewards for their achievements. It was the consensus of the debate that the discrepancies must be brought into sharp focus and more must be done to address these.
It was also recognised that one year is not enough and some discussion ensued on identifying sources to fund medium and long term projects over a ten year period. The debate ended with commitment from participants to engage the EU through Louis Michel and collaborate to initiate desired projects.
Before finally closing, Mr. King made a plea for all wars in Africa to end as a mark of respect for the UN Declaration for 2011 to be the International Year for people of African Descent.