CARIBBEAN-Differing views on Guyana’s position regarding people of African descent

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GENEVA, CMC—On Wednesday, a representative of the International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly Guyana (IPADA-G) told an international conference here that Afro-Guyanese nationals face discrimination and marginalization in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country.

The statement by attorney Nigel Hughes to the Third Session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent seems to contradict the position outlined by Guyana’s Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond, who, in her address on Tuesday, even pledged her country’s support for a second International Decade for People of African Descent.

“Guyana looks forward to contributing to the efforts toward improving the conditions of people of African descent both by supporting the work of this Forum and by continuing to craft and implement programs that will redound to the benefit of Guyanese of African Descent,” Walrond said.

She told the delegates that Guyana, as a multicultural and multi-ethnic society,” is mindful of and keen to ensure that our population, in its entirety, enjoys the best possible quality of life our country can afford.”

But Hughes told the conference that in Guyana today, Afro-Guyanese are facing discrimination and marginalization, noting that they are also subjected to systemic discrimination.

Hughes said African Guyanese are daily victims of several atrocities in the country and that the 2001 Durban declaration and the United Nations declaration 2013, which call for the inclusion of the history of African descents to be included in the school curricula, among other calls, have all fallen on deaf ears.

“Unfortunately, the United Nations calls have not been heeded by the Government of Guyana, which has resulted in the perpetuation of an identity crisis, non-recognition, injustices, and underdevelopment of people of African Descent.

“This adds to systemic discrimination. In Guyana, even the courtesy of a meeting with the Government to advocate for a plan of action for the decade and the introduction of the history of people of African descent into the school curriculum, in particular, has been denied,” Hughes told the forum.

He said that the Irfaan Ali government is seeking to decimate IPADA-G by defunding the organization without merit or justification and that the contribution of the People of African Descent in Guyana is either not recognized or subject to degraded revisionism.

“We draw attention to this body to the concluded observation of the recent Human Rights Committee hearing under the ICCPR in 2024, when they stated that the “Committee remains concerned about the absence of a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation that may extend beyond discrimination in employment, provide full and effective protection against all forms of discrimination prohibited under the covenant, including direct, indirect and multiple discrimination’,” Hughes stated.

Hughes said while some may appear to paint a picture that there is equality in Guyana, a large number of African Guyanese are systemically excluded and discriminated against.

In August 2021, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution establishing the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent as “a consultative mechanism for people of African descent and other relevant stakeholders” and “as a platform for improving the safety and quality of life and livelihoods of people of African descent.”

The Permanent Forum also operates as an advisory body to the UN Human Rights Council, in line with the program of activities for implementing the International Decade for People of African Descent and in coordination with existing UN mechanisms promoting action to combat racism against people of African descent.

In December 2013, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2015-2024 the International Decade for the People of African Descent. There have been general calls for an extension to this period.

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