Afro-Guyanese organisation raises concerns at UN forum on People of African Descent

Last Updated on Friday, 19 April 2024, 0:41 by Writer

Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes speaking at the United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent in Geneva, Switzerland.

The International Decade for People of African Descent Assembly-Guyana (IDPAD-G) has complained to the United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent that the Guyana government has been deliberately refusing to fund the organisation and giving mere lip service to the well-being of Afro-Guyanese.

Speaking at the Forum, Attorney-at-Law Nigel Hughes told hundreds of delegates from around the world that have gathered in Geneva, Switzerland that while IDPADA-G, an entity of 78 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), is committed to the ideals of the Decade, the People’s Progressive Party Civic-led administration has withheld funding from the organisation that he represents. “However, the Government of Guyana seeks to decimate it by defunding the organisation without merit or justification,” said Mr Hughes who has provided legal representation to IDPADA-G in court.

The Guyana government had contended that millions of dollars in cash allocations to IDPADA-G had been used to pay top officials of that organisation, which was established under the now opposition coalition administration, and that none was trickling down to Afro-Guyanese organisations. Last April, the government donated cash to several of them.

He accused the government of not recognising Afro-Guyanese contributions to Guyana’s post-emancipation development or subjected to “degraded revisionism.” The IDPADA-G representative drew the attention of the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent to the concluding observations of the recent Human Rights Committee hearing on Guyana under the ICCPR. “. . . the Committee remains concerned about the absence of 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, . . . “. In that regard, he said “African Guyanese are its daily victims.”

Mr Hughes also said the Guyana government failed to adhere to the 2001 D’urban Declaration and the 2013 United Nations Declaration that called for the inclusion of history in the schools’ curricula; a victim centered approach to its delivery; practical measures, such as teaching young people the importance of tolerance and respect, and the promotion of greater knowledge and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent.

“Unfortunately, the UN’s call has not been heeded by Guyana’s government. This has resulted in the perpetuation of an identity crisis; non-recognition; injustices; and underdevelopment of the people of African descent writ large. This adds up to systemic discrimination,” he said.

In Guyana, he recalled that even the courtesy of meeting with the Government to advocate for a plan of action for the Decade, and the introduction of the History of the people of African descent into the school curriculum, in particular, has been denied.

IDPADA-G challenged the United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent to call upon state parties to redress this injustice.

Speaking at the high-level segment of the opening ceremony, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond said Guyana was keen on providing the “best quality of life our country can afford” to the multicultural and multiethnic society. She said Guyana “unreservedly” supports the extension of the International Decade for People of African Descent and was keen on improving the conditions of Afro-Guyanese. “Guyana looks forward to contributing to the efforts towards improving the conditions of the people of African descent both by supporting the work of this forum and by continuing to craft and implement programmes that will redound to the benefit of Guyanese of African descent,” Ms Walrond said.

On Wednesday, she slammed IDPADA-G for holding itself out as representative of Afro-Guyanese. She said it hijacked the benefits of the decade by “just a handful of people who claim that they are the sole owners of this mandate and it cannot be so.”