WCAR Report of African and African Descendants
REPORT OF AFRICAN AND AFRICAN DESCENDANTS CAUCUS WORK
NGO FORUM and WORLD CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM
28 AUGUST - 8 SEPTEMBER 2001
Prepared: October 2001
The African and African Descendants Caucus (AADC) convened at each of the preparatory meetings for the World Conference Against Racism in Geneva (May 2000, May and August 2001), in the regional preparatory meetings in Santiago, Chile (December 2000), and Strasbourg (Fall, 2000) and in the intersessional working group meeting in Geneva in March 2001.
A major development in the ability of Africans and African Descendants to independently organize was the international African and African Descendants Conference held in Vienna, Austria in April 2001. This historic conference, attended by representatives covering most of the Black World, was convened by African and African Descendants in a concerted effort to refute the efforts at Strasbourg and the attempts by the Western European countries to subvert the work and unity of the Africans and African Descendants manifesting itself in the international and regional preparatory meetings. The Vienna Conference produced a groundbreaking declaration which eloquently articulated and delineated many key positions which would be read and advocated by African and African Descendants throughout the WCAR process. Without question the Vienna Declaration��s unique and unadulterated, sharpened, and keenly intellectual expression of the key issues and programmes of action for Africans and African Descendants was used as guidance by the Drafting Committee of the AADC and would inform the content of many of the position papers of the AADC. In addition, an interim coordinating committee was elected which provided coordination for the dissemination of the Vienna Declaration and on-going dynamic leadership within the AADC.
Although face-to-face discussions were the primary form of Caucus work, Caucus members communicated between meetings through listserves as well as other forms of communication.
The Caucus grew in number and effectiveness over the 15 months prior to the NGO Forum and WCAR in Durban, South Africa. By the August preparatory meeting in August 2001 in Geneva, the African and African Descendants Caucus was truly representative and spoke as the voice of Africans and African Descendants in Africa and throughout the Diaspora.
The Caucus was initially organized in May 2000 by the December 12th Movement based in the United States and with extensive international experience, particularly with the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. The Caucus leadership was reconstituted at each of the preparatory meetings. The Caucus organization and leadership was based in representation from Africa, Europe, South and Central America, the Caribbean, Canada and the United States. A number of people from each of these regions played significant roles in the Caucus.
At the 3rd PrepCom in August 2001, the Caucus determined that at the WCAR there would be a coordinating committee composed of a representative from Africa, Alioune Tine; a representative from Europe, Maluza Martin; a youth representative, Amani Olubanjo Buntu from Norway now living in South Africa; a representative from Canada, David Onyalo who could not serve and Sandra Carnegie- Douglas was substituted; a representative from Latin America, Romero Rodriquez who designated Humberto Brown to represent him; a representative from the drafting committee, Barbara Arnwine, and a representative from the United States, Adjoa A. Aiyetoro. These representatives were selected during the last two meetings of the 3rd PrepComm.
During the first meeting of the coordinating committee it was determined that the December 12th Movement should be on the coordinating committee given their work during the preparatory process, as well as previous work with the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. Adjoa Aiyetoro was asked to email Roger Wareham requesting that he serve on the Coordinating Committee. The return email indicated the December 12th Movement would not reach Durban until August 29, and no definitive response was received on participation on the coordinating committee.
The Coordinating Committee met for the first time in Durban on 26 August 2001. The Caucus met on 27 August, 29 August, 1 September. It met daily from 3 September through 7 September. Alioune Tine, Humberto Brown and Bahiyah Cabral facilitated the meetings, with the exception of 27 August when Maluza Martin facilitated instead of Alioune Tine, and 7 September when Adjoa Aiyetoro facilitated instead of Humberto.
There were two committees that functioned throughout most of the preparatory process and in Durban: Drafting Committee and Strategy and Lobbying Committee. Bahiyah Cabral and Barbara Arnwine facilitated the Drafting Committee throughout the preparatory process. Bahiyah Cabral and Linda Roots facilitated this committee in Durban since Barbara Arnwine was on the NGO Drafting Committee representing the Americas. Adelbagi also was a member of the NGO Drafting Committee. Adjoa Aiyetoro facilitated the Strategies and Lobbying Committee throughout the preparatory process. At the NGO Forum and WCAR government meeting the facilitation team was composed of LaJune Lange, Kafra Kambon, Adjoa Aiyetoro, Makani Themba and Deleso Washington.
The Caucus engaged in a number of activities during the NGO Forum and the government conference. Its consistent presence and message was a major factor in the victory we experienced in the documents that were produced in both meetings. After returning from the NGO Forum and government meeting of the WCAR, many of us learned that people were receiving emails that did not report on the activities of the Caucus or that were inaccurate in depicting the governments�� and NGOs�� activities. Recommendation: In future meetings a committee should be developed to transmit daily summaries of the work of the Caucus and the Caucus��s analysis of the meeting activities.
Adjoa, Michelle (from Canada) and Muntu Matisimela prepared an orientation package for Africans and African Descendants who had not participated in the preparatory process. This package was distributed at all Caucus meetings during the NGO Forum. Attempts to get this package translated into French, Spanish and Portuguese were unsuccessful. Recommendation: Translation services be developed at the beginning of the meeting process and made an integral part of the work.
A press conference was held on Wednesday, 29 August. Our media committee was composed of Molly Secours, Makani Themba and Deo Hakizimana, Linda Roots was the moderator and the speakers were Bahiyah Cabral, Alioune Tine and Humberto Brown. It was held in the Africa Tent and approximately 40 people were in attendance. This was especially good since Kofi Annan was speaking at the plenary of the NGO Forum, held immediately following the press conference and there was a Middle East demonstration during the press conference.
The African and African Descendants Caucus organized a traditional Homecoming Ceremony for African Descendants, under the leadership of Sally Cuffee and Amani Olubanjo Buntu. The ceremony was held at the Blue Lagoon Beach in Durban on 30 August and was attended by more than 300 people.
The African and African Descendants Caucus was asked to designate a speaker to present on the topic of reparations at the Heads of State Roundtable held 31 August, the first day of the government conference. Adjoa Aiyetoro made that presentation.
Caucus members, including Sandra Carnegie Douglas and Ray Winbush, were rappateurs and moderators of several key NGO Forum Commissions: Africans and African Descendants, Slavery and the Slave Trade and Reparations. Caucus members were also speakers in these Commissions. Barbara Arnwine was on the NGO Drafting Committee. The language of the NGO documents is quite strong on these matters due primarily to our leadership in the Commissions and on the Drafting Committee.
Caucus leadership participated in briefings of Members of the United States Congressional Black Caucus who attended the government conference to obtain their support on reparations and the TransAtlantic Slave Trade and slavery as crimes against humanity. Caucus representatives also participated in meetings with GRULAC, President Wade of Senegal, the Ambassador from the Sudan and its delegation, and David Commisiong from Barbardos to discuss support for the Caucus��s priority issues. Caucus members also met with representatives from delegations of Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana.
The Caucus supported the Afro-Brazilian demonstration held on 3 September. We joined in the march and spoke at its press conference.
On 5 September the Caucus made an intervention during the plenary session of the WCAR government meeting. The statement was drafted by a committee composed of representatives from Europe, Africa, Canada, Latin America and the United States. It was read by Ms. Annie Davies from Nigeria.
The Caucus organized the largest demonstration held during the NGO Forum and government conference on 5 September: a candlelight vigil with the theme United Against Global Racism and the slogan of Reparations Now. Danny Glover was the celebrity speaker. Each of the regions were represented by a speaker. There were also speakers from the Women��s Caucus, Youth Caucus and other caucuses. Demonstrators included Africans and African Descendants, Romas, Dalits, Europeans and others. We were the only demonstration barred from crossing the street and standing immediately in front of the gates to the ICC where the governments were meeting. When someone yelled at the police, "we want them to hear us," a policeman yelled back: "they hear you, trust me, they hear you."
On 6 September we heard that the African Group of States and others might be bending to the pressure to not allow the conference to break down over the issues of crimes against humanity and reparations. About 30 of us, representing Africa and the Diaspora, came together on a grassy hill outside the ICC. We strategized and came up with a joint statement from the African and African Descendants Caucus and the Durban 400, a group led by the December 12th Movement that until 6 September had chosen to work independently. This statement urged the governments to not sacrifice language on slavery and the slave trade as crimes against humanity and reparations for the victims.
DEVELOPMENT OF ONGOING AFRICAN AND AFRICAN DESCENDANTS ORGANIZATION
On 7 September we met to finalize the plans for moving beyond Durban. A committee, chaired by Muntu Matsimela, had presented a report to the Caucus on 6 September that was discussed by the Caucus. The general sense on 6 September was that the Caucus wanted to form an interim steering committee to develop a comprehensive proposal for a permanent structure. On 7 September, the Caucus voted to develop an Interim Steering Committee composed of 6 representatives from Africa, 3 from Europe, 3 from South America, 3 from Central America, 3 from the Carribean, 3 from Canada and 3 from the United States. There was a lot of discussion about the number of representatives from areas in the Diaspora. It was agreed that people should understand that this was only an Interim Steering Committee. This Interim Steering Committee would be responsible for developing a proposed structure and function of an ongoing body, and considering factors necessary to determine the representative numbers for the ongoing body. Barbara Arnwine took the responsibility of receiving the names and contact information for the persons chosen to represent each of the areas designated and sending them the first communication scheduling the first meeting. She also took responsibility for circulating to the entire Caucus membership this summary of Caucus activity at the WCAR and NGO Forum in Durban.
A proposal was submitted in this meeting to have a meeting of African and African Descendants in Barbados in August 2002. The August date appeared to be problematic for many people present. The Interim Steering Committee was charged with determining how to address the proposal to have a meeting of the entire Caucus approximately one year from the Durban meeting in September or October 2002.
The Interim Steering Committee is to meet in November by conference call and to have its proposal distributed to members of the Caucus by 15 March 2002. The members will have 60 days to provide feedback to the Interim Steering Committee and a final report will be distributed by June 1, 2002.
As the policeman said, they heard us. On 8 September, although many of our Caucus members were in route home, a number of us were in the ICC when we heard the news of the victory. In a 7-page document the slave trade, especially the TransAtlantic Slave Trade, and slavery were called crimes against humanity and States urged to develop measures to combat the consequences of these crimes that continue to this day. Although, as Ambassador Amina Mohamed from Kenya said, this is an imperfect document, it speaks for the first time ever in a United Nations document to the crimes committed against Africa and Africans in the Diaspora during the TransAtlantic Slave Trade and slavery. This document can be used by us to build support throughout the world for acknowledgment of the crimes and reparations to Africans and African Descendants who continue to suffer the consequences.