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  • Stella Igweamaka

International Decade of African Decent; What is it? Why is it important?

The road to a world free from racism, prejudice and stigma is rocky. Combating racial discrimination is a long-term effort. It requires commitment and persistence. People of African descent need encouragement and support. Member States have the moral and legal obligation to provide sustained political and financial backing to make the Decade effective and to continue our path toward equal and just societies

These were the words spoken by UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Flavia Pansieri during the launch of the International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD) on January 1 2015. 

In Canada, 43% of hate crimes in 2017 were motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity according to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Three years after the IDPAD launch, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, announced that the Government of Canada would officially recognize the International Decade for People of African Descent on 30 January 2018. 

Born out of the need for countries to adopt specific steps to help combat racism and to intensify measures for full and equal participation in all aspects of society for people of African descent, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent (resolution 68/237).

People of African descent comprise a heterogeneous group with diverse histories, experiences, and identities. The circumstances in which they live and the problems they face differ. What unites them, however, is that they have long been denied the full realisation of their human rights. According to the 2019 General Social Survey (GSS) on Canadians’ Safety, nearly half (46%) of Black people aged 15 years and older reported experiencing at least one form of discrimination. Some of these common issues faced by the People of African descent include:

  • Inequality, marginalization, and stigmatization. 

  • Low levels of participation and underrepresentation in political and institutional decision-making processes.  

  • Inequality in access to labour markets and lack of support for entrepreneurial individuals. 

  • Racial profiling and limited social recognition and valuing of people of African descent’s ethnic and cultural diversity and contribution to society. 

As proclaimed by the General Assembly, the theme for the International Decade is People of African descent: recognition, justice and development. Countries and nations all over the world have been tasked with taking concrete and practical steps through the adoption and effective implementation of national and international legal frameworks, policies, and programmes to combat racial discrimination, and related intolerance faced by people of African descent.

Through these actions, the people of African descent can begin to feel valued, represented and can begin to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms. 

In addressing some of these issues, a number of organizations have been at the forefront by creating spaces and resources to enable people of African Descent thrive and integrate better in the society. One of such organisations is the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative (SBCCI) which was created by the Federal government through Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to help increase the capacity of Black-led grassroots not-for-profit organizations that serve Black communities in Canada. 

We are now more than halfway through the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015–2024). While some progress has been made, there is still a lot more to do in ensuring that the rights of people of African descent are promoted and protected. 

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