International Decade for People of African Descent 3…

LBOSCAAN–Country-wide broad consultation established

A family tie is like a tree, it can bend but it cannot break. ~ African proverb

Introduction

The UN Decade for People of African Descent is in its third year and in the Netherlands courageous initiators are currently engaged in setting up a proper structure for broad consultation and eventually formation and implementation of a National Action Plan (NAP).

Based on nearly five years of preparation, the LBOSCAAN – Landelijk Breed Overleg voor, van en door, de Civil Society van mensen van Afrikaanse afkomst or Country-wide Broad Consultation of Civil Society of African Descent was launched on 5th October in The Hague.

This column has been preceded by two earlier articles on the International Decade for People of African Descent. These can be accessed at The African Bulletin website –http://mediablackberry.com/ or more directly at:

http://mediablackberry.com/international-decade-for-people-of-african-descent/.

What is this ‘International Decade for People of African Descent’?

On 23rd December 2013, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent (resolution 68/237) citing the need to strengthen national, regional and international cooperation in relation to the full enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights by people of African descent, and their full and equal participation in all aspects of society.

How did this decade come about and what does it mean?

This proclamation by the UN followed from the 2001 third World Conference against Racism, which took place in Durban South Africa. This resulted in the ‘Durban Declaration’ which stated that the people from Africa had been victimized by slavery and continued to suffer. During the International Year for People of African Descent, ten years later, the UN called for these efforts to intensify. Two years later, in December 2013, the UN resolved that 1 January 2015 till 2024 member states were requested to launch the International Decade for People of African Descent.

Launching of the LBOSCAAN

This auspicious and prestigious occasion took place in the afternoon and early evening of 5th October in the Rembrandt meeting room of the Marriott Hotel in The Hague.

The Moderator for the event was Ms. Joan de Windt, introduced by Mr. Kevin Mendeszoon, member of the TFILBO (Task Force Implementation Group LBO).

A heart rendering musical arrangement by Composer, Violinist and Arranger,

Yannick Hiwat accompanied the opening. The performer produced part of his composition of the disaster of the sinking of the Dutch slave ship Leusden in 1738 at the mouth of the Marowijne River in Surinam in which a 700 locked below deck slaves drowned.

In a video message, Philippine Prof. Dr. Ricardo Sunga II, member of the UN Working Group of experts concerning people of African descent in the Netherlands, congratulated the TFILBO on the launching.

Ms. Desire Hooi, MD also member of TFILBO in her exposé ‘Unlocked’ explained the need to unlock the biological, psychological and emotional traces of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade in its descendants. She showed a video clip portraying some graphic enactments of obvious physical and emotional stress of victims of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade experienced. She then referred to her research among the black population in the Caribbean, mostly descendants of the slave trade and particularly the high prevalence of diseases like high blood pressure, heart problems and diabetes compared to the white ethnic population. Desiree Mooi further stressed that the effects of post-health and human rights violations of victims of the slave trade had not been fully considered. Referring to ‘Unlocked’ the title of her exposé, delivered in English, Desiree Mooi quoted James Baldwin: ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced’. Obviously work (research) in progress. She recommended more ethnic based comparative medical research.

Mw. Dr. Barryl Biekman, arriving unavoidably late, welcomed participants of the launching of the LBO and went round the room to introduce members of the LBOSCAAN in her familiar personal way, e.g. referring to her audience as ‘ ladies and gentlemen – dear family’. She referred to the earlier World conferences against racism and discrimination and the opportunity the current UN Decade for People of African Descent offered. She explained that she would not be part of the Board of the LBO, but remain Chair of the ‘National Platform Slavery Past’ where there was still important work to do.

She called on the Civil Society of African descent to rally together and told the representative of the ministry of Social Affairs and Employment that she expected the LBOSCAAN to be recognized.

Dr. Doudou Diènne, Good Will Ambassador of the LBO and former UN Special Rapporteur for Racism, former UNESCO Director and initiator of the Slave Route Project commended the developments in The Netherlands. He repeatedly mentioned that leading role of Civil Society of African Descent was an example to other European countries that waited for their UN member State to act. He reiterated that the history and particularly documentation of fighting resistance of the afflicted of Trans-Atlantic and other forms of slavery was still incomplete. He called racism a deliberate construction which still persisted and increasingly discovered in contemporary society.

Keven Mendeszoon, member of the TFILBO presented the Delineation of the LBOSCAAN under the title of “From Dream to Act” outlining the structure of the new organization as well as explaining the commissions on Recognition, Justification, Development, Science and Research, Politics and Ideology and finally Good Will Ambassadors. The document on the delineation of the LBO was distributed with the invitation of the launching and available on request from info@people-of-african-descent.nl being the LBO Secretariat.

Stewart De Windt LLM, member of the TFILBO compared the UN Decade for People of African Descent with the Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands which deals with the relations between the Netherlands and the Caribbean islands included in the Kingdom. The conclusion was that human rights were not treated the same in both locations.

Initiative Proposal National Action Plan – NAP

The NAP was briefly explained by Kevin Mendeszoon, but not made available to the participants for a practical reason. Sample pages were ceremoniously handed to the Board members of the LBOSCAAN by Mrs Barryl Biekman.

This was followed by interventions of various participants.

Statute LBOSCAAN

The Statute of the new organization was presented to the Chair of the Board of the LBOSCAAN Mrs. Adinda de Vries, who then presented her colleague board members as seen in the picture.

Conclusion

The members of TFILBO (Task Force Implementation Group LBO) rightfully deserve commendation for all the work they did in preparatory meetings to design the LBO and bring it to its installation in the form of the LBOSCAAN.

“Nu aan de slag – Now to Work” as the initial Action Plan proposal is titled will require getting the length and breadth of the Civil Society of African descent in The Netherlands to rally behind the LBOSCAAN.

My familiarity and connection to the African Diaspora (from direct African Descent) due to my forty years of living and working in Africa, is well known. However to my surprise and disappointment at the launching this African Diaspora was much underrepresented. This imbalance was only slightly addressed when Ms Chief Evelyne Azih, Chair of the Nigerian National Association and her colleague arrived towards the end of the launching.

The LBOSCAAN needs all African Diaspora in the Netherlands, whether from the Antilles, Surinam or various African countries, benefitting from the Decade for People of African Descent, as all are victims of racism and discrimination in different forms and at different times.

Last but not least it should be realized that the African Diaspora from direct African descent is often not fully cognisant and often lack lustre about education on the issue of slavery.

I wish the LBOSCAAN all possible success in its challenging task.

*Ato Bob is a former Dutch Diplomat who now consults with various NGO’s on African issues. He lives in Rotterdam and may be reached on atobobhensen@hotmail.com

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