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Caribbean countries call for slavery reparations

first_img 18 Views   no discussions Sharing is caring! NewsRegional Caribbean countries call for slavery reparations by: – September 26, 2011 Share Sharecenter_img Tweet Share Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, addressing the general debate of the sixty-sixth session of the UN General Assembly. UN Photo/Evan SchneiderNEW YORK, USA — Three Caribbean countries — Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines – on Saturday called for reparations for injustices suffered by African slaves and their descendants.The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, said that segregation and violence against people of African descent had impaired their capacity for advancement as nations, communities and individuals.“None should disagree that racism and other legacies of slavery continue to shape the lives of people of African descent – thus reparations must be directed toward repairing the damage inflicted by slavery and racism,” Spencer told the UN General Assembly’s annual general debate in New York.He stressed that former slave-owning states should begin a reconciliation process by formally apologizing for the crimes committed by those nations or their citizens over the 400 years of the African slave trade.“And to help counter the lingering damage inflicted on generations of peoples of African descent by generations of slave-trading and colonialism, we call on those very States to back up their apologies with new commitments to the economic development of the nations that have suffered from this human tragedy,” said Spencer.He said that planned African Diaspora Summit in South Africa next year will provide a platform for the African Diaspora to put in place economic policies that will ensure sustained economic cooperation among public and private stakeholders to promote development, entrepreneurship and business opportunities in Diaspora regions.Barbados also renewed its call for “meaningful and innovative reparations” globally for people of African descent as past and continuing victims of racial discrimination. Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley, raised the issue on Saturday while addressing a one-day United Nations High-Level Meeting to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in New York. This Declaration calls for the universal ratification of the International Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.Lashley told those present that funding targeted at national economic development, as well as resources intended to support social programmes designed to counter the attacks on the self-worth of people of African descent should be included in these reparations.“Such programmes are being implemented in Barbadian schools and communities, and they investigate, identify and counter those messages and images that negate the value of the knowledge and culture of people of African descent by building awareness of the fundamental contribution of African peoples to world civilisation,” he explained.The minister argued that continuous investigation, monitoring, and reporting of acts of racial discrimination must be a priority if the full potential of all individuals and groups within all nations was to be realised, and their human rights protected.He conceded that not all countries possessed the technical or financial resources for that type of surveillance which would also serve as the basis for reporting to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. “It is critical, therefore, that priority be given to providing technical and financial resources to States, as well as regional and international bodies for the development of institutionalised systems of surveillance. Barbados is proposing a model for one such system of surveillance and will seek to collaborate with other nations for its full development and implementation,” he disclosed.Acknowledging that racial discrimination had been widely recognised as a root cause of war and inhumanity, Lashley said it must be given the highest priority and resources required to properly address its perpetuation and consequences. He expressed the view that the challenge would be inherently difficult and complex, but not insurmountable, if those involved remained focus, fair and relevant.He reassured the meeting that the government of Barbados remained committed to eradicating the scourge of racial discrimination, wherever it might occur.The minister also called for significant resources to be allocated to fund national, regional and international multi-ethnic research centres to develop new conceptual tools for understanding the complex nature of racial discrimination. “In the Caribbean, the site of the longest and deepest social experiment in building societies based on a complex of racial shades [is] the University of the West Indies [and it] can be one such centre to study ethnic relations,” he suggested.Lashley praised those involved in the project to erect a Permanent Memorial at the United Nations Headquarters to honour the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.While the United Nations this year pays tribute to anti-slavery fighters, there must also be an apology and reparation for the Atlantic Slave Trade, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ (SVG) Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said on Saturday. The UN has declared 2011 the International Year for People of African Descent and Gonsalves told the General Debate he was grateful that the UN has hosted events to raise awareness of the challenges facing people of African descent and foster discussions on potential solutions to tackle these challenges.“The people of St Vincent and the Grenadines have a long and proud history of resistance to slavery, bigotry and genocide, dating back to the heroic resistance of the Garifuna peoples against British aggression in the late 1700s,” Gonsalves said of his multi-island Caribbean nation.“While we celebrate the noble heroism of the famous and the faceless who resisted racist colonial hegemony, we must continue to confront the legacy of this barbarism and continuing injustice. The wounds of this era are deep, the crimes against humanity are clear, and the necessity for apology and reparations are undeniable,” said Gonsalves, who is of Portuguese descent.He told world leader that racial discrimination was justified and became itself the justification for a brutal, exploitative and dehumanising system of production that was perfected during the transatlantic slave trade and ingrained over the course of colonial domination.The structure of the modern world is still “firmly rooted in a past of slavers and colonialist exploitation,” he further said.“Today, every single country of the world with a population of majority African descent is still trapped in the periphery of our global economic and developmental systems,” Gonsalves noted.He said that the peoples of African descent “remain disadvantaged, individually and systemically, by this entrenched and unyielding cycle of discrimination.“Indeed, many of the wars that the UN struggles mightily to quell or avoid are rooted in the ignorant and avaricious cartography of European colonisers,” he further said.Gonsalves told the UN that in the remaining months of this year “we must ramp-up efforts to confront the challenges facing the people of African descent, seek justice for historical and modern wrongs, and celebrate the rich and diverse African culture, in all of its glorious manifestations”.He further said that discussion about peoples of African Descent this year couldn’t take place without highlighting “the enormous humanitarian challenges facing the peoples of the Horn of Africa and Haiti.“The East African famine and its attendant refugee and security problems require urgent attention and massive response,” Gonsalves argued.“We are not a civilized global society if we cannot address and banish the extreme poverty and starvation faced by the people of this region. Similarly, the situation faced by the citizens of our sister state of Haiti remains precarious. Now is the time for the international community to redouble, rather than reduce, the support and assistance given to the government and people of Haiti,” Gonsalves said.The United Nations, the Barbados Government Information Service and Kenton X. Chance contributed to this report.By Caribbean News Now contributorlast_img

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