In late 2009, the United Nations General Assembly designated the year 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent.

A UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) press release regarding the designation notes that, in accord with resolution 64/169, “The Year aims at strengthening national actions and regional and international cooperation for the benefit of people of African descent in relation to their full enjoyment of economic, cultural, social, civil and political rights, their participation and integration in all political, economic, social and cultural aspects of society, and the promotion of a greater knowledge of and respect for their diverse heritage and culture.”

“The international community has affirmed that the transatlantic slave trade was an appalling tragedy not only because of its barbarism, but also because of its magnitude, organized nature and negation of the essential humanity of the victims,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remarked on December 10, 2010, during the official launch of the U.N.’s year long celebration: “Even today, Africans and people of African descent continue to suffer the consequences of these acts.

“The Durban Declaration and Program of Action is clear,” Moon added. “It calls upon Governments and others to ensure the full integration of people of African descent into social, economic and political life, and to facilitate their full participation at all levels of decision-making.”

Various nations and different organizations throughout the world have made plans to celebrate the International Year for People of African Descent.

Among the events so far scheduled:

In Canada, the Toronto-based Harriet Tubman Institute plans on petitioning to have Underground Railroad routes in Canada officially recognized. In Jamaica, the US Ambassador to Jamaica Pamella Bridgewater has urged Jamaica’s tourist industry to make a push for ethnotourism – i.e., to encourage other people of African descent to visit Jamaica and learn about the history and liv es of Black people on the island. The government of Guyana is planning a year-long series of events which will specifically celebrate Guyanese of African descent. And numerous Afro-Colombian organizations in Colombia have film series, lectures and events already on schedule, visit

Other groups, governments and organizations around the world are encouraged to have their own events to further education about the health, economic status, history and culture of Africa’s descendants. The celebration of 2011 as the International Year for People of African Descent coincides with the tenth anniversary of the United Nations’ World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR), which took place in Durban, South Africa in 2001.

The U.N. itself plans to review the issues of racism and its effects when it holds its annual U.N. General Assembly in New York City this September. The General Assembly will hold a session on “Combating racism and follow-up of the Durban Program of Action.” Unofficially, this new session is being called “Durban III,” and it will be designed to look at the ongoing efforts to fulfill the mandates of the WCAR’s Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA).

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