NEW YORK : Int’l reparations conference ends on high note

(From left) Reverend Jesse Jackson, US actor Danny Glover, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles, were among the speakers at the event.

(From left) Reverend Jesse Jackson, US actor Danny Glover, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles, were among the speakers at the event.

NEW YORK, USA (CMC) — An international conference on reparations has ended here with a call for Caribbean governments to proceed urgently with the recommendation that the slave-owning and slave-trading European nations be invited to attend an inter-governmental reparatory justice summit in 2015.

In addition, delegates also agreed to organise two global reparations summits, the first in 2016 to be held in the Caribbean and another in 2017 in Europe.

Don Rojas, the director of communications and international relations at the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW), which convened the three-day conference that ended here on Sunday, described the event as historic and unprecedented and “a tremendous success”.

“It was inspired in large measure by the unanimous action taken almost two years ago by the Caricom (Caribbean Community) nations to establish a regional reparations commission, and it will provide a huge momentum to the growing global reparations movement,” said Rojas, the former press secretary to the slain Grenada revolutionary leader and prime minister, Maurice Bishop.

Participants have also agreed to consolidate the growing African global reparations movement and to call on all civil society organisations and governments in countries around the world with Afro-descendant populations to establish national reparations commissions or committees.

According to a communiqué issued on Monday night, participants also agreed unanimously to engage in vigorous outreach efforts to educate and organise the youth, including those active in the Black Live Matter Movement in the United States.

In the spirit of the “Durban Declaration” of 2001, which declared the Atlantic Slave Trade and chattel slavery as historical crimes against humanity, the National/International Reparations Summit), brought together hundreds of participants from some 20 countries in the Caribbean, Europe, Central and South America, as well as from Canada and the United States.

IPW said summit participants held discussions and “engaged dialogues on the imperative of reparations for people of African descent around the world and also for the indigenous peoples of the Americas who suffered genocide at the hands of European slave-holding powers”.

These Pan-Africanists and reparations activists viewed the National/International Summit as “beginning the final stage in the long historical process of seeking justice, repair, restitution and recompense for the monstrous crimes of African enslavement and native genocide,” IBW said.

The communiqué said that the Caricom Reparations Commission (CRC) is committed to support the National African-American Reparations Commission (NAARC) in “the form of encouraging and facilitating Caribbean political leaders, artists, civil society leaders and scholar/activists to participate in various NAARC initiatives in the months and years ahead.

“NAARC recognised the vision of Caricom in establishing the Reparations Commission and will support the Caricom Reparations Commission in its activities and initiatives in the future,” it said, noting that the NAARC and the CRC welcomed the establishment of an European Reparations Commission, along with those recently established in Britain and Canada.

It said meetings are being planned with these organisations for next year.

The New York summit also recognised US Congressman John Conyers as a “champion of the reparations movement and the consistent sponsor of HR40 — the reparations study bill in the US Congress.

It urged the US Congressional Black Caucus, major civil and human rights organisations in the US, and the US labour movement to support the global reparations movement.

The conference applauded the General Assembly of the United Nations on the declaration of 2015-2024 as the Decade for People of African Descent, expressing strong support for the decade’s programme of activities.

It also called on member-states of the UN to officially launch the decade and applauded the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation for its continued support of the Slave Routes Project and the General History of Africa Project.

Additionally, the summit applauded the government of Brazil for declaring mandatory the study of African history and culture at all levels of the educational system in that country, and called on all countries with African-descended populations to do likewise and to recognise the “validity of traditional African spirituality”.

The summit called on the global reparations movement to develop sustainable funding strategies, urging the international community to work towards a 21st century new moral order for sustainable development in which reparatory justice is an integral component, according to the communiqué.

The summit featured rousing speeches by, among others, US civil rights leader, the Rev Jesse Jackson; US actor Danny Glover; and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles.

The IBW International Reparations Summit came two years after the 15-nation Caricom group decided unanimously to form a reparations commission and to demand that the former European colonial and slave-trading powers pay the debt owed to African people in the Caribbean region for the enormous wealth made off of their forced and uncompensated labour during the centuries of African enslavement.

In January 2014, Caricom issued a 10-point programme for “Reparatory Justice” that frames their reparations demands as a “development strategy”.

The New York summit’s stated goal was to “use reparations payments to deal collectively with pressing economic and educational problems facing the citizens of the Caribbean that trace their origins to the underdevelopment imposed by slavery, slave trading, native genocide, and economic exploitation by the European nations,” IBW said.

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