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The International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly – Guyana (IDPADA-G) attended the United Nations First Session of the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent, in Geneva, during December 5 – 8, 2022. Dubbing the event as “truly historic” the local body said the meeting, which was well attended, saw participation from government and a large and vibrant civil society presence supportive of the interest and welfare of their African brothers and sisters. The Government of Guyana did not attend.
In a statement, IDPADA-G said the Forum offered a healthy and healing opportunity to address the long-standing and painful issues confronting persons of African Descent world-wide and for national representatives, both government and civil society to hear the same messages and recommendations and make the effort to get on the same page for the way forward. “It was a priceless opportunity – one not to be ignored or taken lightly.”
Given the absence of the Government, IDPADAG had the sole responsibility of representing the concerns of the African Guyanese community. The organisation said unlike other regional governments, the government of Guyana did not see this meeting as a priority and so was not represented at this historic Forum.
“The decision not to attend doubles down on the perception that, to this administration, the issues of concern to the African Guyanese community are not unique; do not require specific
attention; and consequently, are not even on the government’s radar. “
In preparation for this historic first session, IDPADA-G convened a meeting with member organisations and the wider community to hear their concerns and to be informed about the priorities they wished to be addressed in Geneva. The message taken to the Forum meeting was drawn entirely from its membership and the wider African Guyanese community said the organisation.
“The message conveyed the perilous state of our community, especially when compared with other ethnic groups’ access to government resources or support and aligned with UN reports by Doudou Diène, UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination and Xenophobia in 2003 and as well as the 2008 findings of Independent Expert on Minority issues, Gay McDougal.”
As early as July of this year, IDPADA-G reminded, the organisation wrote President Irfaan Ali requesting a meeting to bring to his attention the issues of concern to the community so as to collaborate on the best way forward. “His Excellency has never formally responded to our requested meeting. Instead, on three occasions when he happened to cross paths with IDPADA-G principals, he confirmed his awareness of the request and promised faithfully that the meeting would be scheduled. Five months later that meeting has not taken place.”
In the interim the conditions facing the African community, IDPADA-G said, have deteriorated, in the face of which, in addition to the President not fulfilling his promise to meet with IDAPADA-G, his government has abruptly frozen IDPADA-G’s funding. Since September the organisation has received the budgetary approved subvention from the government. The organisation has since taken the government to court on the matter.
According to the IDPADA-G, the President and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must realise its outreach to the international community is a response to being ignored by those who manage the affairs of this country.
“Handouts, tiny contracts, basketballs, hugs and dancing do not address the fundamental concerns of the Guyanese of African descent nor does the regurgitation of commitments made at international fora. In fact, they add insult to injury. We therefore reaffirm our call for meaningful dialogue with the Ali administration on the state of African Guyanese and our plan of action for the remaining years of this Decade and for the soon to be confirmed second UN International Decade for People of African Descent 2025 – 2034.”
The full text of IDPADA-G’s intervention at the UN Forum follows:-
Olive Cannings Sampson
Chief Executive Officer
International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly – Guyana (IDPADA-G)
UN PERMANENT FORUM ON PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT
Statement and recommendations from IDPADA-G Preparatory Meeting
I speak on behalf of the International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly—Guyana (IDPADA-G) established in 2017 by an assembly of African Guyanese civil society organisations, with the support of the then government, to serve as Guyana’s Country Coordinating Mechanism for the UN Decade for People of African Descent.
Sixty-five (65) African Guyanese organisations from across Guyana form IDPADA-G’s General Assembly and focus its work on addressing equitable treatment of and reparative justice for African Guyanese. This intervention draws on a preparatory meeting held on November 20 in which community leaders put forward the concerns they wished to be brought to this body.
The history and politics of the current political regime does not bestow confidence. They have not acknowledged the plight of the African Guyanese and in pursuit of their own interest, largely ethnic, they have shown scant regard for the lives and livelihood of African Guyanese. Extra-judicial killings, corruption and the narco-trade have trumped justice, good governance and legitimate wealth creation.
Under this regime, the member organisations of IDPADA-G are concerned that no specific attention, as the Decade calls for, is being paid to the state of Guyanese of African descent. On the contrary, the policies of the state are further entrenching and escalating the dire state of African descendants in Guyana.
The disproportionately large size of the oil and gas sector in relation to the rest of the nation’s economy, the historically structured inequalities in resource allocation and wealth creation, combined with race-based politics in Guyana have contributed to an exponentially widening economic gap between Africans and others in the Guyanese economy.
African Guyanese have been marginalised – – kept out of the oil and gas sector and deprived of significant contracting opportunities, mining, logging and other natural resource concessions, in addition to being forced out of the public sector and shut out of the private sector in deference to an Indo-Guyanese oligarchy. In two short years, through a ruthless and systematic racist attack on landownership and tenure, mining concessions, employment, contract awards, African Guyanese now control less than 8% of the nation’s productive sectors and are being relegated to the margins of Guyana’s burgeoning economy.
At the Preparatory meeting, the member organizations jointly crafted the community’s message and recommendations to this body to address the issues confronting African communities, and specifically African Guyanese.
They recommend the formulation of policies that demand:
ECONOMIC EQUITY – disaggregated data collection and protection of land ownership
Recommendation I: Collection of disaggregated data and/or ethnic disparity audits as the basis for developing policies and programmes targeted at improving the lives of African descendant people
Recommendation II: Special procedures at the level of the UN to ensure the protection of land ownership, compensatory measures for land unjustly dispossessed of and return of land under illegal possession.
EQUAL AND FAIR TREATMENT UNDER THE LAW – Increased Oversight and Monitoring
Recommendation III: The establishment of national oversight and monitoring agencies (in Guyana and other similarly affected states) to ensure government respects the Human Rights of People of African Descent and adheres to all established affirmative action and equity policies. A video detailing the current status of African Guyanese was launched at our side event on November 30, 2022. It is available to view at: https://idpada-g.gy/permanentforum/
A FINAL NOTE ON THE CURRENT STATUS OF IDPADA-G
Each year since 2018, Guyana’s Parliament had approved a modest subvention (grant) to support IDPADA-G’s work – a grant initiated by the previous government and continued since 2020 under the new regime. However, in September of this year, without notice or clear cause and in spite of the approved Parliamentary allocation for 2022, the government of Guyana ceased disbursing the monthly payment of the grant funds resulting in the curtailment of the work of IDPADA-G, an organization dedicated to the goals of the Decade.
IDPADA-G brings this to the attention of this body and calls on all here present to register support for the continued funding of an agency with a proven record of successful programs focused on achieving the goals of the Decade. Our community is thankful for the opportunity to bring our plight to the attention of the UN Permanent Forum for People of African Descent.
December 5, 2022
United Nations, Geneva