“ The International Year must become a milestone in the on-going campaign to advance the rights of people of African descent. It deserves to be accompanied by activities that fire the imagination, enhance our understanding of the situation of people of African descent and are a catalyst for real and positive change in the daily lives of the millions of Afro-descendants around the world. ”
The UN General Assembly proclaimed 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent (in resolution 64/169) citing the need to strengthen national actions and regional and international cooperation to ensure that people of African descent fully enjoy economic, cultural, social, civil and political rights. The Year further aimed to advance the integration of people of African descent into all political, economic, social and cultural aspects of society, and to promote a greater knowledge of and respect for their diverse heritage and culture. The International Year for People of African Descent was launched on Human Rights Day, 10 December 2010, by the UN Secretary General.
The main objective of the Year was to raise awareness of the challenges facing people of African descent. It was hoped that the Year would foster discussions that would generate proposals for solutions to tackle these challenges.
During 2011 a number of international events were held. On 2 March in Geneva, during the high level segment of the UN Human Rights Council, a panel discussion with the participation of Member States and civil society addressed the human rights concerns of people of African descent. That same week, on 7 March, a full day’s discussion was held by the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, also meeting in Geneva. This discussion served to raise awareness of the causes and consequences of racial discrimination against people of African descent, and to promote visibility of their diverse heritage and culture. Also in March, the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent discussed the International Year. This meeting was held in Geneva from 28 March to 1 April. The International Year closed with the convening of a high-level debate on the achievements of the goals and objectives of the Year, held in New York during the regular session of the UN General Assembly, which started in September.
A coalition of civil society organizations formed to promote the Year held memorials, seminars, cultural events and other activities around the world to mark the Year and raise awareness of the contribution of African descendants to our world heritage. Everyone, and in particular people of African descent themselves, was encouraged to participate in and contribute to the success of the Year.
The UN General Assembly resolution on the International Year encouraged Member States and all relevant donors to contribute funds for activities during the Year.