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Durban and World Conference Against Racism: Reparations now!

AMADI AJAMU Special to the AmNews | 6/2/2011, 10:17 p.m.

This year we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the United Nations World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), held in Durban, South Africa in September 2001, and the passage of the historic "Durban Declaration."

African states, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and their allies from around the world converged on Durban ready to work. The largest delegation from the United States was the "Durban 400," led by the December 12th Movement International Secretariat and the National Black United Front (NBUF). The fighting spirit of Pan-African unity was phenomenal. Delegates huddled, strategizing and fine-tuning their united approach to real political redress.

The Durban 400 were on a mission to establish three specific points:

  1. The basis of racism is economic
  2. The transatlantic slave trade was a crime against humanity;
  3. Reparations (compensation) are due. They lobbied nations, focusing on Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, which would be voting on the declaration. On the final day and into the night, the struggle over the wording of the declaration and program of action that ensued. In the end, the transatlantic slave trade was declared a "crime against humanity" and the issue of reparations was included.

The African peoples' plan of action after the WCAR was to take the fight to the people of their respective nations. The Durban 400 organized the first national rally for reparations on the Mall of the U.S. capital in Washington, D.C., on August 17, 2002, the anniversary of the birth of Marcus Garvey. Over 50,000 people from across the United States attended.

The perpetrators of the racist crimes against humanity are doing all they can to negate the victory in the WCAR. Western national and international media outlets glossed over the Durban Declaration Program of Action (DDPA) or distorted or outright lied about the final agreements and outcome.

From the outset, the United States led the Western nations in their efforts to derail the WCAR, feigning offense on the issue of equating Zionism with racism. The United States sent a mid-level delegation to the conference with orders to direct the dialogue toward defending Israel and ignoring their own centuries-old racist oppression and exploitation

of Africans. Israel has learned much from their U.S.-European kindred-their benefactors during their consistent, brutal, neo-colonialist occupation of Palestine.

United Nations follow-up meetings to implement the Durban Declaration have been deliberately slow-tracked. There are usually fiveand 10year reviews of the progress of implementation-the WCAR took eight years for its first review. The Africa Group and the Working Group for People of African Descent continue to fight the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) with vigor. More work needs to be done on the ground to expose the process and mobilize people.

One of the few ideas from the DDPA that was actually implemented was the formation of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. However, it has been hamstrung by a lack of funding, and only within the past year and a quarter has it be-gun to actually visit countries where PAD (People of African Descent) reside. This group, the only mechanism exclusively devoted to PAD, has great potential. As it develops, it can hopefully serve as the eventual basis for a permanent Forumon People of African Descent.