“As we see all around us, racism and racial discrimination continue unabated. Although we refer to our world as a global village, it is a world sadly lacking in the sense of closeness towards neighbour and community which the word village implies . . . there are problems stemming from either a lack of respect for, or lack of acceptance of, the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings . . ”
– Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights March 24, 1999.
The World Conference was held in Durban, South Africa from August 31 to September 7, 2001. It was intended as a landmark in the struggle to eradicate all forms of racism. Governments were asked to “deliver on their promises and make it a conference of actions not just words”.
Combating racial discrimination is a principle of the United Nations as stated in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “Faith in fundamental human rights, in dignity and worth of the human person” is stated in the preamble. The Conference focused on achieving these objectives:
- Review progress made and reassess obstacles since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Right
- Increase awareness of racism and racial discrimination
- Formulate ways to increase effectiveness of UN activities and programs aimed at combating racism
- Consider ways and means to better apply existing standards of combating racism
- Build the UN resources necessary in the combat against racism
- Review political, historical, economic, social, cultural, and other factors to racism and racial discrimination
- Formulate action-oriented national, regional, and international measures aimed at combating racism and racial discrimination
Sadly, the delegates from the U.S. and Israel walked out of the Conference and joined 15 nations in a boycott. Nine nations boycotted the Conference entirely.
- New Zealand
- United States
Six nations that limited their participation:
- Czech Republic
- European Union
- United Kingdom
The inability to come together in the common goal to end racism is also reflected in the fact that empowering victims of racism is not included as a Millennium Development Goal.
The United Nations Secretary General will launch the UNiTE to End Violence Against Women Campaign in November. The Caribbean project of the United Nations Secretary General will provide participants an opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences and make a collective move forward.
Barbados will host a conference on October 11th -12th which the Attorney General, members of the judiciary, senior representatives of regional police forces and members of civil society organizations will attend. The theme of the conference is:
“Strengthening Accountability and Changing Culture to End Violence against Women in the Caribbean.”
Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, UN residence coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, expressed her delight with the attendance of:
- Caribbean nationals
- President of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
- Judge Patrick Robinson – former Jamaican Deputy Solicitor General and President of the International Tribunal for Rwanda
- Sir Dennis Byron – former Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court and native of Saint Kitts and Nevis
The International Criminal Tribunals have investigated sexual violence in relation to torture and crimes against humanity.
Roberta Clarke, Regional Programme Director for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM, a part of UN Women) said,
“So one of the questions the Presidents will be addressing will be, ‘What are the lessons that have been learnt at the international level, and how can those lessons be translated in strengthening the law response at the national domestic levels?’ Through their participation here at the conference, we hope very much for their reflections on the relationship between ending violence against women, strengthening democracy, citizenship and human rights”
For more information contact:
UNIFEM (part of UN Women) VAW Specialist, Tonni-Ann Brodber at
Communications Specialist, Sharon Carter-Burke at
Lyndall Beddy, a South African columnist with News Time, recently wrote an article in what she calls Poetic Politics. I could not get through the whole article before knowing I needed to respond. She wrote,
“European Colonial Doctors, not Indigenous Healers, cured Africa’s diseases: leprosy, yellow fever, bilharzia [sic], malaria, sleeping sickness et al . . . in most of Africa the faith of the people was in cannibalism (body part medicine), witchcraft and spirits. And far from understanding animals, they were afraid of most of them. My own char is too afraid still of frogs or spiders to go near them and I have to evict them from the house.”
Well, that was her opinion, and this is mine . . .
Let’s start with actual facts. These diseases are collectively known as tropical diseases. They were so named because they thrive in warm climates. They also thrive in communities that are victims of poverty and malnutrition. Malnutrition is a result of poverty. Malnutrition leads to medical disorders and leaves you vulnerable to more diseases. Before colonists came to Africa, communities (villages) were not victim of poverty. Do not forget Africa was a rich continent and this is what drew the colonist.
Beddy also wrote,
“As I have explained, black American descendents of slaves made up a culture and history of an Africa that was perfect until the nasty whites went to Africa and captured blacks as slaves from this perfect world (which, by the way, was monogamous in the Kwanza Cult version)”.
Kwanza is not a cult. As you should know (since you call yourself an amateur historian), Kwanza is a celebration. It originated in Africa and was adopted in America by members of the African Diaspora in an effort to regain ties with our heritage. As an amateur historian did you not know that slavery robbed the American born members of the African Diaspora of knowledge of our ancestry?
Beddy also wrote,
“The truth is that whites had no resistance to malaria, and did not even enter the interior of Africa until a cure had been found for malaria . . . It was white doctors, during the European colonial period, who found the cures for the many illnesses of Africa, often at considerable risk to their own lives.”
Beddy, the truth is, the colonists were not forcibly taken to Africa in chains. They willfully entered Africa, at their own risk, for their own benefit. I am sure they could barely wait to enter Africa’s interior and “discover” more riches.
Beddy says she is an anti-racist activist, yet she said,
“. . . in most of Africa the faith of the people was in cannibalism (body part medicine), witchcraft and spirits. And far from understanding animals, they were afraid of most of them. My own char is too afraid still of frogs or spiders to go near them . . .”
In fact, a good lesson to learn in being an activist against racism is not to make racist statements. Have you worshipped with people who practice their traditional or indigenous faith enough to “understand” their faith? Is it not the “spirit” of Jesus that is the cornerstone of the Christian faith? Do you understand “frogs and spiders?”
Natural disasters leave society’s most vulnerable at a higher risk of violence. Those without principles and those who have given up on decency victimize the young and the elderly. They prey on girls and women. Security is destroyed in homes without doors. Since the earthquake in Haiti, attacks on girls and women are raped, harassed, and beaten at a devastating rate. Haitians still living in tent camps outnumber the Haitian police, UNIFEM, and UN police that patrol them.
From 1932 to 1972 the U.S. Public Health Service in Tuskegee, Alabama conducted a “clinical study” using poor African American sharecroppers to research the progression of untreated syphilis. Approximately 400 poor men of African descent were enticed into the program with free meals, medical exams, and burial insurance. They were never told they had syphilis. They were told they were being treated for “bad blood”, a term used at the time in the African American community for illness with fatigue symptoms. Actually, they were never treated. This “study” became known as the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment or the Tuskegee Experiment.
According to a Reuters article on Oct. 1st, President Obama offered his personal apology for another syphilis experiment. This time researchers deliberately infected 696 Guatemalan women, mental patients, and prison inmates with the disease. This “study” was to learn the effectiveness of penicillin in treating syphilis. It was conducted from 1946 to 1948.
Guatemalan government released this statement:
“President Alvaro Colom considers these experiments crimes against humanity and Guatemala reserves the right to denounce them in an international court.”
Susan Reverby, a professor of women’s studies at Wellesley College in Massachusetts uncovered the “study” while investigating the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment and informed the U.S. government before she published her findings.
While many dead-beat dads are stifling kids through their actions, one man is boosting kids one block at a time. In the 1990’s, Geoffrey Canada initiated an experiment to promote a future for children living in poverty. Canada’s experiment yielded a safe zone for the children in Harlem to learn and play. Canada’s experiment has come to be known as Harlem’s Children’s Zone.
Geoffrey Canada was featured by ABC News as Person of the Week. A newly released documentary suggests he’s Superman. Canada says, “One of the saddest days of my life was when my mother told me Superman did not exist. She thought I was crying because it’s like Santa Clause in not real. I was crying because no one was coming with enough power to save us.”
Canada was raised by a single mother in Harlem. He went on to earn a Masters from Harvard. When he and his wife were expecting their first child he started to research what child development. He discovered that positive parenting starts before your child is born. Canada reached out to expecting mothers to teach them how to raise their child from a positive view of the world.
Canada had learned that children of wealthy parents are given early positive encouragement; while poor parents extend negativity to their children. Canada has pioneered a program that follows babies growing up in poverty with positive encouragement throughout their development.
Canada said, “It is one of the great joys of my life, that when I look at my young people that I realize there is a bunch of us adults standing with these kids saying we’re going to guarantee you make it.”