A high-level diaspora forum has held in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, on advocating for the recognition of the diversity and cultural contributions of people of African descent to the development of societies around the world. Convened by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), it had in attendance high-profile personalities including Natalia Kamen, UN Under-secretary General and UNFPA executive director, Costa Rican Vice President Epsy Campbell Barr and her Ghanaian counterpart, Mahamudu Bawumia.

UN Under Secretary-General & Executive Director of UNFPA Natalia Kanem and visiting Costa Rican Vice-President Epsy Campbell Barr, welcomed by His Royal Majesty Odeneho Kwafo Akoto III, King of Akwamu in eastern Ghana on April 21, 2022 [Courtesy: UNFPA Ghana]

The forum, The Return Mission, is part of a UN initiative to advance the rights of people of African descent. Speaking at the Accra forum on Friday, Kamen, also of African descent, stated that the forum afforded “an unprecedented opportunity to strengthen cooperation for our collective progress and to promote equity, healing, and social justice for our communities across the globe.”

On her part, Costa Rica’s vice president, Epsy Campbell Barr, emphasised the importance of realizing the dream of Jamaican-American intellectual Marcus Garvey’s dream of a global union of Black people.

“Africans have been victims of systemic historical racism and exclusion, and it is time to fulfil the promise of recognition, justice, and development,” she said. “We must join forces as a single continent and advance policies that strengthen the relationship and ties between Africa and the diaspora.”

There are an estimated 200 million people of African descent in the Americas, with millions more in other regions of the world outside of Africa.

In December 2013, the UN General Assembly declared 2015–2024 the International Decade for People of African Descent and urged the international community to recognize people of African descent as a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected.

The declaration’s theme is “People of African descent: recognition, justice, and development.” The UNGA also declared August 31 each year as an International day for people of African descent.

Meanwhile, the African Union has also declared the African Diaspora as its sixth region, alongside North, South, East, West, Central and the Diaspora Africa. Ghana, where the forum is holding, has been a prominent voice in the establishment of stronger relations between Africa and the African diaspora.

In 2019, President Nana Akufo-Addo launched the ‘Year of Return’ to encourage the African diaspora to return to the continent, particularly Ghana, to settle and invest as part of a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first group of enslaved Africans in America.

The West African nation has a long history with the African diaspora because of its crucial role in what eventually became known as the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Its 550-kilometre coastline is dotted with forts and castles that served as slave dungeons, facilitating the procuring, transporting, and selling of black Africans as slaves to European countries and North America.

Kamen and Barr visited some of these historic sites to relive the travails of enslaved Africans. One of their stops was at the Assin Manso Slave River Site, which served as the place where the enslaved from across the country were made to rest and have their last bath on African soil before being sent to the dungeons of Elmina and Cape Coast Castle. The UN delegation also visited the dungeons.

04/22/2022 by Alize Utteryn