February 28, 2005
It gives me great pleasure to participate in this event which symbolizes the commencement of the Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of People of African descent, Racism and Racial Discrimination. I am thrilled to represent the Inter American Commission on Human Rights on this occasion as it demonstrates that the Commission can react to the requirements of its constituencies. I must mention the efforts of many NGO’s but the leadership and the push to create this rapporteurship came from the Government of Brazil. Today the Government of Brazil is going one step further in delivering a check to fund the first year of activities of the new rapporteurship. Another reason for my happiness is that the Commission saw it fit to designate me as the first special rapporteur for the Rights of Afro-descendants and Against racism.
The afro-descendants in the Americas have historically suffered from racism and racial discrimination. Over the past decades, the invisibility of this population along with the lack of information led to a number of initiatives from non-governmental organizations, academics and international bodies to document the existence of the afro-descendants and the causes and consequences of their exclusion.
Particularly, in the international arena of human rights protection, the Preparatory Regional Conference to the World Conference against Racial Discrimination, Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance held in Santiago, Chile, provoked the governments of the Americas to advance substantively toward the establishment of a conceptual framework in order to raise the visibility of afro-descendants, recognize the persistence of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance that specifically affect the afro-descendant population and at the same time set forth a guide to fight social exclusion and racial discrimination in our Region.
In the Declaration and Plan of Action of Chile the States recognized that the identity of the Americas cannot be disassociated from its multiracial, multi-ethnic, multicultural and pluralist nature. They also recognized that that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance still persist in the Americas and that racism and racial discrimination continue to cause suffering, disadvantage and violence. The States pledged to double their efforts and to reassert their commitment to eradicating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in order to improve human well-being, promote more inclusive and participatory societies, and eradicate poverty.
The theme of elimination of discrimination and promotion of the full equality are fundamental in the Inter-American Commission. Through its experience in individual cases, in situ visits to countries, it has been shown conclusively that in the countries where an unequal distribution of wealth persists, the afro-descendants are the most affected group. This rapporteurship has its work cut out for it but with the continued support of Brazil and other member States of the OAS, the NGO’s and international bodies, we will succeed.
It was with the above in view that the Commission created the Special Rapporteurship on the Rights of People of Afro-Descendants and Against Racial Discrimination with a mandate to stimulate, systematize, reinforce and consolidate the action of the Inter-American Commission on the rights of people of African-descendent and racial discrimination. In this respect, the core objectives of the Special Rapporteurship will include working with OAS Member States for the following purposes: to generate awareness of the states’ duty to respect the human rights of afro-descendants and to work towards the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination; to analyze the current challenges that confront countries of the region in this area, formulate recommendations designed to overcome the obstacles and identifying and sharing best practices in the region with respect to this matter; to monitor, and provide any technical assistance requested by member States in the implementation of the recommendations in national law and practice.
The Commission is extremely grateful to the Brazilian government not only for this contribution but also for its leadership in bringing the political discussion of this matter to the OAS and promoting concrete initiatives. The Commission would like to reiterate its commitment to cooperate with other initiatives focused on the progress of human rights of afro-descendants, particularly with the creation of an Inter-American Convention against Racial Discrimination. In that respect, Vice Minister, the Government and the Commission share the same vision.
 ICHR, Report on the Human Rights Situation in Ecuador, Chapter X, OAS/Ser.L/V/II.96 Doc 10rev. 1, 04/24/97