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International cooperation and Afro-descendants: UNESCO Quito presents its views to Afro-descendants
13 March 2015/ UNESCO Office in Quito

On 12 March, UNESCO presented its paper on International Cooperation in favour of Afro-descendant peoples at the forum Voices of Ecuador in the Decade for People of African Descent, organized by the group of cultural managers Tambor: Voces y Sonido [Drum: Voices and Sound], with the support of the Haitian Embassy, the Ministry of Culture and the UNESCO Office in Quito and Cluster Office to Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.

The project coordinator from the Culture Sector at UNESCO Quito, Mr Fabin Bedn, was the first to have the floor. He began by quoting the message of UNESCOs Director-General, Irina Bokova, regarding what the Decade means: This Decade holds a message of hope, tolerance, human rights and dignity. Across the world we see increasing recognition of the immeasurable contribution of women and men of African descent to shaping societies today. The International Decade for People of African Descent is designed to transform this recognition into action.

Some of the themes dealt with were: the Slave Route Programme, which UNESCO develops to contribute to a culture of peace, promoting reflection on cultural pluralism, intercultural dialogue and the construction of new identities and citizenships. Also mentioned were the commemorations that exist to recall events which have excluded Afro-descendants, such as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, observed annually on 21 March.

In addition, the international instruments accepted and ratified by Ecuador before the United Nations in favour of Afro-descendants were mentioned. Also stressed was the aim of achieving cooperation for plurinationality and the elimination of racial discrimination and ethnic and cultural exclusion, the Millennium Goas and the Post-2015 Agenda, as well as the results of the consultations held in our country with the Afro-Esmeralda people.

To close the presentation, UNESCO proposed a series of activities recommending that this decade be lived to the fullest. Suggestions include five points ranging from awareness-raising campaigns aimed at different social actors, to the production of documentaries and digital tools promoting the dissemination of the actions of the Afro-Ecuadorian people (link to the presentation).

Other participants in the event include Mr Christian Toussaint, Minister of the Embassy of Haiti in Ecuador, and Ms Luzmila Bolaos, representative of the Drum: Voices with Sound and Rhythm group.

In his speech, the diplomatic representative of Haiti stated: By proclaiming this Decade, the international community recognizes that Afro-descendants represent a specific group whose human rights should be promoted and protected (). Our respective governments, in this decision, resolve to celebrate this decade under the slogan Afro-descendants: recognition, justice and development, taking into consideration that all human beings are born free, with equal rights and dignity.

In turn, in her speech the Cultural Manager paid tribute to the Afro-descendants who participated in the historic feats of America, she recalled the slaves and proposed all those present to accept the challenge of having the voice of Afro-descendant peoples be heard, respected and valued so that it can exert its influence on everyday life. Luzmila Bolaos was in charge of the drum salute opening the event and the spiritual Ecuadoran-Haitian ceremony.

The International Decade for People of African Descent begins with UN Resolution A/68/237 adopted on 10 December 2014, the day in which UN Headquarters in New York established the theme People of African descent: recognition, justice and development. In the keynote address the decade was described as an opportunity to unite our voices and renew our political commitments to universal human rights and give a new impetus to the elimination of all forms of racism and racial discrimination against any person, anywhere. The proclamation takes place thirteen years after the United Nations Durban Conference which generated a continental agenda and paved the way for the present Decade.

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