The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has a critical role to play in securing significant and sustained change in rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons of African descent.
This was the message delivered by Senator John King as he gave the feature address on the opening day of the Africa-African Diaspora Dialogues on Recognition, Justice and Development, themed Shaping the Present for the Future We Want, at the Hilton Barbados on Thursday.
The series of talks, which are being supported by the University of the West Indies, together with the Government of Barbados, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), seeks to identify strategies for the protection of all rights owed to persons from across the African diaspora.
King said that despite the several challenges facing black people across the world – from discrimination to the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – bodies like CARICOM have a responsibility to continue the fight for meaningful change.
“No matter the crisis, whether it is racial discrimination, climate change, economic or the public health and compounding impacts of COVID-19, the disruption that occurs in a crisis opens the door for transformative action to be taken. Change must occur, but whether that change is for the better depends on our willingness and capacity for change as individuals, communities and institutions. And for that change to be meaningful, it must first address the vulnerabilities of those most at risk,” he said.
“Accountability must also play a key role in the solutions applied in today’s world. Many of our ancestors came to this side of the world forcibly and under the worst of conditions. The lingering effects of that trauma and the social order of the past still hold too many of our brothers and sisters in its chilling grip.”
With reparations for persons of African descent leading many discussions at the UN level over the past several years, Senator King said it was important for CARICOM member countries to continue to lead the charge.
He said the lack of compensation and justice experienced by African descendants over the past few centuries because of the indirect consequences of the transatlantic slave trade, cannot be overstated or ignored.
“We must use this meeting to discuss how we can go about developing synergies between our CARICOM reparations campaign, the pursuit of the Programme of Activities for the International Decade for People of African Descent, and the Decade of Action to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals. Indeed, at the last meeting of our CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on Reparations, a decision was taken to mandate all CARICOM member states to make a concerted effort in the field of international diplomacy to advance and develop our reparations cause,” King contended.
“CARICOM diplomats and Ambassadors are therefore expected to utilise all channels available within the United Nations system to build international support for our reparations claim, and so it goes without saying that our CARICOM nations are keen to devise strategies to leverage the obvious synergies between the campaign for reparative justice and the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the objectives of the International Decade for People of African Descent.” (SB)