How does the Decade relate to us in the United States?
Black activists in the United States have a long history of using an international human rights framework to address regional and national human rights violations against People of African Descent. W.E.B. Du Bois and Malcolm X advocated for the United Nations to address the issues of Black people in the United States as distinct and simultaneously interconnected to issues of Black people around the world.
Black female activists like Ida B. Wells and Rosa Parks also used a human rights framework to fight for the rights of Black women in the United States, but ingrained international structural racism makes it difficult for us to know the roles that they truly played in engaging with international human rights bodies.
The International Decade for People of African Descent is an answer to what activists like Du Bois, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, and Rosa Parks fought for -- a meaningful opportunity for People of African Descent to bring their unique and specific issues to an international stage.
Read more about W.E.B. Du Bois’ and Malcom X’s engagement with the UN below.
Photo courtesy of Balthazar Beckett.
What is the Decade?
In 2013, the general assembly of the United Nations declared 2015-2024 the International Decade for People of African Descent (IDPAD or “the Decade”), with the themes and goals of Recognition (the right to equality and non-discrimination), Justice (access to justice) and Development (the right to development and measures against poverty).
The Decade is an unprecedented opportunity for People of African Descent (PAD) and people/organizations advocating for the rights of People of African Descent to bring their issues to the international stage, and to work across communities and issue areas regionally, nationally, and internationally.
“In proclaiming this Decade, the international community is recognizing that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected. Around 200 million people identifying themselves as being of African descent live in the Americas. Many millions more live in other parts of the world, outside of the African continent.”
W.E.B. Du Bois and the NAACP
“Peoples of the World, we American Negroes appeal to you; our treatment in America is not merely an internal question of the United States. It is a basic problem of humanity; of democracy; of discrimination because of race and color; and as such it demands your attention and action. No nation is so great that the world can afford to let it continue to be deliberately unjust, cruel and unfair toward its own citizens.”
In 1947, the NAACP submitted a petition, “An Appeal to the World: A Statement of Denial of Human Rights to Minorities in the Case of citizens of Negro Descent in the United States of America and an Appeal to the United Nations for Redress” edited by W.E.B. Du Bois to the United Nations to address the denial of human rights to African Americans in the United States. The 99-page appeal offered a historical account of human rights violations against People of African Descent in the United States and discussed ongoing discrimination faced by Black communities.
“We believe our problem is one only of civil rights but of human rights…Not only are we denied the right to be a citizen of the United States, but we are denied the right to be a human being.”
Malcolm X saw African American issues in the United States as not one of a national proportion, but rather deserving of international attention and pressure, and as deeply related to the problems of People of African Descent around the world. Based on this worldview, Malcolm X advocated for bringing the United States to the United Nations, taking the problem out of the hands of the violators. When Macolm X was assassinated, he was working on a project to gain African states’ support for a UN resolution condemning the United States government's violation of Black human rights.
In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly decided in resolution A/RES/73/262 to establish a permanent forum on people of African Descent. Currently, activists and organizers are advocating for the formation of a Permanent Forum and for a Declaration on the Rights of People of African Descent that includes the voices of PAD leaders. The creation of these two important United Nations tools would create a specific space for PAD leaders to discuss issues and solutions regionally and globally, and create a specific document focused on the unique issues facing PAD around the world that can be used to fight for PAD rights internationally.
In May 2019, a consultation on the format, substantive, and procedural aspects of the new United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent took place at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting provided an opportunity for civil society organizations and other interested stakeholders from around the world to present their views on the new Forum.
Prior to the consultation, an International Coalition of PAD leaders and organizations developed a Consensus Proposal on the Permanent Forum which was presented to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The proposal was signed by 118 organizations from across Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and North America. The US Human Rights Network was among the lead organizations that contributed to the development of the proposal and supported its submission.
Photo courtesy of Balthazar Beckett.
How can I use the IDPAD to further my advocacy?
To join the national listserv for groups doing work within the United States, contact Salimah Hankins, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to join the International Network for People of African Descent (INPAD) listserv to receive information for groups doing work within and outside of the United States.
The first step in learning to use the IDPAD and getting involved with IDPAD advocacy efforts underway are to participate in monthly calls among PAD leaders and organizations.
National PAD Working Group Monthly Calls: The US Human Rights Network leads a PAD Working Group comprised of PAD leaders and organizations within the United States. The calls are facilitated by USHRN Deputy Director Salimah Hankins and will provide an opportunity for you or your organization to give an update and network with other activists around the country.
Mid-Decade Summit on the International Decade for People of African Descent
Date: November 13, 2019
Location: Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, Washington, DC