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International Law


Juridical Committee

Sec. for Legal Affairs


Organization of American States

Department of International Law

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The Afro-descendant Theme in the Americas

There are approximately 200 million people of African descent in the Americas, yet, despite comprising one third of the region’s population, Afro-descendants are one of the most vulnerable minority groups in the hemisphere.

It should be noted that in the Declaration of Santiago and the Declaration of Durban, the American states recognized that people of African descent have to confront obstacles as a result of the social discrimination and prejudice that prevail in public and private institutions and also recognized that this is due to centuries of racism, racial discrimination and enslavement and of the denial by history of many of their rights This situation also results in a lack of recognition for the contribution of this group to the cultural heritage of the Americas.

We should draw attention to the fact that the Inter-American Democratic Charter recognizes that elimination of all forms of discrimination and respect for ethnic, cultural and religious diversity in the Americas contribute to strengthening democracy and citizen participation.

International Public Law provides several instruments against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. At the universal level the United Nations has driven substantial efforts to combat these scourges.

In the inter-American sphere, too, a number of mechanisms have been created to tackle this phenomenon and encourage respect for the rights of people of African descent in the Americas. Examples of this are the creation of the Rapporteurship on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and against Racial Discrimination of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the allusions to people of African descent in the Declaration of Mar del Plata in the framework of the Fourth Summit of the Americas in 2005 and in the Declaration of the Regional Conference of the Americas (Preparatory meeting for the Third World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance), held in Santiago, Chile, in 2000.

By the same token, a succession of mandates have come out of the [Summits of the Americas]  and the General Assembly of the Organization of American States to combat racism and discrimination. The negotiation is at present under way in the framework of the OAS of a Draft Inter-American Convention against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance.

It should also be noted that at both the regional and international level the majority of member states have signed, ratified or adopted, as the case may be, a variety of international instruments for the elimination of racial discrimination as well as for promotion and respect for the rights of persons of African descent.

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