African Union Continental Symposium On The International Decade For People Of African Descent

The Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Hon. Charles Owiredu, has affirmed Ghana’s continued commitment to providing leadership by promoting initiatives that would ensure the emancipation of Africa and People of African Descent.

Hon. Owiredu made this known during the opening session of a three-day African Union Continental Symposium on the Implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent held on September 18, 2018 at the African Reagent Hotel in Accra. Representatives from the United Nations, African Union, Diaspora groups and Civil Society Organisations among others attended the symposium.

The Deputy Minister underscored Ghana’s commitment to providing leadership for the progress of Africans, dating back to the pre-independence era. He recalled that Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, at the time of independence stated that the “independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked to the total liberation of Africa”.

The scramble for Africa as a result of imperialism and colonialism  plunged the continent into exploitation and slavery which has led to its people suffering from exclusion, humiliation, impoverishment, racism and racial discrimination in schools, work places and political representation in spite of the guaranteed constitutional freedoms and human rights.

The Deputy Minister emphasized that the United Nations General Assembly Resolution (68/237) adopted on 23rd December 2013 which proclaimed the International Decade for People of African Descent, 2015-2024 under the theme “People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice and Development”, provides a unique opportunity for concrete measures to combat racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia.

He also indicated that since the African Union Global Diaspora Summit (2012) which sought to build sustainable partnership between the African continent and the African diaspora, Ghana has undertaken several initiatives to engage the Ghanaian and African diaspora. He added that Ghana has established a Diaspora Affairs desk at the Office of the President. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration has also designated Diaspora Desk Officers in Ghana Missions abroad to ensure efficient, effective and timely delivery of consular services to help improve the welfare of the diaspora.

Hon. Owiredu disclosed that Ghana was also one of the first African countries to be a signatory to the Continental Free Trade Agreement. He further indicated that, to facilitate free movement of the diaspora and people of African descent, Ghana introduced the visa free regime to citizens in ECOWAS member states as well as other African countries including Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Rwanda.

The Deputy Minister urged delegates, during the deliberations to consider measures that would facilitate the implementation of action-oriented policies and programmes that would combat racism and racial discrimination and ensure that people of African descent enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms.

He also urged member states of the African Union to create awareness, quality education and national plans to promote diversity, equality and social justice. He added that Ghana is implementing the Free Senior High School Programme to ensure that children are provided with equal opportunities to attend school without discrimination.

In his remarks, the Deputy Regional   representative of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for  Human Rights(UNOHCHR) East Africa Regional Office, Addis Ababa Ethiopia, Mr. Idrissa Kane, indicated that “everyone is entitled to the same human rights and equal human dignity” and for that reason no one should be discriminated against because of the difference in sex, race, ethnicity, work, culture, religion and skin colour.

The United Nations representative added that the International Decade for People of African Descent is a strategy to increase cooperation to in order to maximise the full benefit of the economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights of people of African descent as well as ensure their full participation in all aspects of society.

The Director of the Citizens and Diaspora Directorate (CIDO) of the African Union, Mr. Ahmed El Basheer, for his part described the African Diaspora as an integral constituency of the African Union and added “the international decade for People of African Descent is a critical time in the history of Africans and Afro-Descendant around the world”.