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Secretary General Insulza Greets the Start of the International Year for People of African Descent at the OAS

  March 12, 2011

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, greeted the inauguration of the International Year for People of African Descent, so declared through a UN resolution echoed during the 40th OAS General Assembly in Lima in 2010.

“The establishment of this date reflects our organization’s commitment with confronting racism and developing an organized fight in our societies to put an end to intolerance and discrimination,” Insulza said. He added that “this is a job for everyone, in all continents, that must be aimed, through serious and persistent plans, to fighting discrimination, a factor that delays development and damages the soul of any society.”

The resolution adopted by the OAS in its 40th General Assembly (available here), held in Lima in 2010, reaffirms the importance of the free and full participation of Afro-descendants under conditions of equality in all aspects of political, economic, social and cultural life in the countries of the Americas, and also prescribes a series of activities to be carried out in the Organization in the framework of the International Year.

The OAS builds on the recognition of the rights of individuals without distinction as to race, as established in the OAS Charter and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (both of 1948), as well as the idea that “respect for ethnic, cultural and religious diversity in the American contributes to strengthening democracy and citizen participation,” as stated in the Inter-American Democratic Charter (signed in 2001).

The General Assembly resolution of 2010, the first at the OAS on the subject of Afro-descendants, furthermore echoes the “historical bonds and shared experiences which tie together the American and African continents, the fundamental contributions of persons of African descent and their communities in the Americas, and the importance of recognizing and preserving that heritage.” It is estimated that some 200 million people of African ancestry live in the Americas, approximately a third of the total population of the continent.

The event that served to officially inaugurate the activities of the OAS in the context of the International Year was a reception recently organized by the Department of International Law of the Secretariat for Legal Affairs of the OAS. This Department also presented the publication, “Expert Workshop on People of African Descent in the Americas,” which brought together the different presentations made on the event of a workshop held on the subject last year. The book gathers the presentations made by participants in said event and addresses subjects such as affirmative action, the fight against racial discrimination in the workplace, burden of proof in acts of discrimination, and racial hate speech.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-566/11