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Open letter to Theresa May: recognise the UN International Decade for People of African Descent

The British government has admitted to having no plans to recognise the UN International Decade for People of African Descent. At a time when racialised discrimination and inequality are rampant, this is unacceptable.

People march for #BlackLivesMatter London. Marcus Blaque/Flickr. (CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)

This is an open letter from a coalition of African-led organisations and supporters to Prime Minister Theresa May, the British government and the two houses of parliament. For more information about the letter and how to get in touch with members of the coalition, please contact Michael McEachrane (mceachrane@gmail.com).

We, the undersigned – a coalition of African-led organisations and supporters – urgently call upon the British government, members of parliament and the House of Lords to officially recognise the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024.1

Baroness Young of the House of Lords has asked the British government what plans it has to mark the UN Decade and the government has replied that it has no such plans. We find it is unacceptable that, so far, the British government and parliament have taken no steps to recognise the UN international decade, let alone implement its objectives.

This is despite the fact that:

• There is a UN General Assembly Resolution 69/16, from 18 November 2014, entitled “Programme of activities for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent”, which urges states to implement its objectives, and Britain is mandated to follow resolutions made by the UN General Assembly;

• Britain has a leading role in the UN, as one of its founders and as a permanent member of the Security Council, and prides itself on being a champion for human rights;

• Britain has a long-standing relationship with African people, owing especially to histories and legacies of enslavement and colonialism;

• African people in the UK are particularly vulnerable to racial discrimination – as has been established over the years by countless studies;

• The international decade is supposed to contribute to the full and effective implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and in compliance with the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, both to which Britain are party, and the main objective of the decade is to “promote respect, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people of African descent, as recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (A/RES/69/16, §8);

• The international decade offers an opportunity to stem the rising tide of ultranationalism, xenophobia and intolerance by stressing equality, non-discrimination and justice.

In her first statement as the new prime minister, on 13 July in front of 10 Downing Street, Theresa May emphasised social justice, an understanding of the union as one “between all of our citizens, every one of us, whoever we are and wherever we’re from”, and that the mission of the new government will be to “make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us”. She also mentioned that “if you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white.”

We urge Theresa May and the new government to stay true to their promise. As a 2013 report from London School of Economics showed, half or more of stop and searches by the police are for drugs, and African people use about half as much drugs as white people do yet are stopped and searched for drugs six times as often. As a recent statistical report on equality in higher education showed that although 3.3% of the general population is African and 6.4% of students in higher education are African, yet only 1.9% of staff on academic contracts and 0.55% of professors are African. Six months after graduating 9.7% of African students are unemployed compared to 4.6% of white students. According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the rate of poverty in the African community has risen in recent years to 39.4% compared to 17.5% for whites; 26.8% of African children live in overcrowded accommodation compared to 8.3% of white children; African people have experienced some of the largest falls in full-time employment; have the highest rate of contact with specialist mental health services; and are most affected by racially-motivated hate crimes.

Britain has no reasonable excuse not to officially recognise and implement the UN international decade and its objectives.

According to UN Resolution 69/16 the objectives of the international decade are supposed to be implemented “on the basis of full consultation and collaboration with people of African descent”. In this spirit, we the undersigned, would like to send a delegation to meet with the government at its earliest convenience to discuss the implementation of the UN international decade in the UK.

Signed by,

  1. Toyin Agbetu, Ligali Pan African Human Rights Organisation
  2. Shahrar Ali, PhD, Deputy Leader, Green Party of England and Wales
  3. Kehinde Andrews, Associate Professor in Sociology, Birmingham City University, Co-chair of Black Studies Association
  4. Amanda Arbouin, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies, Nottingham Trent University, UK
  5. Dame Betty Asafu-Adjaye,  Founder, Mission Dine Club Charity
  6. Nana Asante, Chairperson Africans for Jeremy Corbyn Values and Trustee Kilombo UK
  7. Nzingha Assata, Alliance of Afrikan Women
  8. Shango Baku, Artistic Director of Cultural Exchange Through Theatre In Education
  9. Gabriella Beckles-Raymond, Senior Lecturer in Theology, Philosophy and CUlture, Canterbury Christ Church University
  10. Linda Bellos OBE, Human Rights Lawyer
  11. Black Lives Matter Network UK
  12. Black Studies Association
  13. Brighton and Hove Black Women’s Group
  14. Anne Braithwaite, Social Justice Activist
  15. Emma Carter, Finance Coordinator Green Party of England & Wales
  16. Ornette D Clennon, Critical Race and Ethnicity Research Cluster, The Research Centre for Social Change and Community Wellbeing, Manchester Metropolitan University
  17. The Colonialism Reparation Team
  18. Mike Cole, Professor in Education, Cass School of Education and Communities, University of East London
  19. Julie Cupples, Reader in Human Geography and Co-Director of the Global Development Academy, University of Edinburgh
  20. Patricia Daley, Professor in Human Geography, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford
  21. Adam Elliott-Cooper, Teaching Fellow at the Department of Sociology, Warwick University, member of Black Lives Matter Network UK
  22. Lucia Dube, Director of the Zimbabwe Community Association and Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Diaspora Focus Group
  23. European Network Against Racism
  24. Yvonne Field, CEO and Founder of the Ubele Initiative
  25. Elsie Gayle, Co-chair of the Society of African and Caribbean Midwives
  26. Global Afrikan Congress UK
  27. Green Party of England and Wales
  28. Cheryl Griffith, Retired Counsellor and Psychotherapist
  29. Mandella Higgins, Established IT Professional for UK Governmental Departments, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and European Union Agencies
  30. Alice Hooker-Stroud, Wales Green Party Leader
  31. Imani Housing Coop Ltd
  32. Judith Jacob, Actress
  33. Natalie Jeffers, Matters of the Earth and Black Lives Matter Network UK
  34. Christopher Jones, Africans For Jeremy Corbyn Values
  35. Justice Afrikan History
  36. Emma Katz, Lecturer in Childhood and Youth, Liverpool Hope University
  37. Harshad Keval, Senior Lecturer, Sociology, Canterbury Christ Church University
  38. Kwaku, Coordinator of African Histories Revisited
  39. Lucienne Loh, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, Department of English, University of Liverpool, UK
  40. Michael McEachrane, Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London
  41. Judy Maciejowska, Elections Coordinator, Green Party of England and Wales
  42. Firoze Manji, Visiting Fellow, Kellogg College, Oxford University, Executive director of Fahamu and Editor of Pambazuka Press
  43. Velma McClymont, PhD, Writer and Motivational Speaker, Fellow of the African Forum Scotland
  44. Lucy Michael, Lecturer in Sociology, Ulster University
  45. Aadam Muuse, NUS Black Students Officer
  46. Explo Nani-Kofi, Centre Director, Kilombo Centre for Citizens Rights and Conflict Resolution, Peki
  47. Denise Noble, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Birmingham City University
  48. NUS Black Students Campaign
  49. Motunrayo Olofinbinu, Ethnic Minority Officer Greenwich and Woolwich Labour Party and activist
  50. Doreen Osbourne-Lamont, Diverse City Services
  51. Olivette Otele, Historian, Bath Spa University
  52. PAC 45 Foundation
  53. Hannah Pudner, Wales Green Party Deputy Leader
  54. Michael Privot, Director of ENAR, the European Network Against Racism
  55. Joel Quirk, Associate Professor in Political Studies, University of the Witwatersrand
  56. Paul Reid, Director of Black Cultural Archives
  57. Judy L. Richards, European representative of Global Afrikan Congress International Working Committee
  58. Marcia Rigg, Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign
  59. Imani Robinson, Black Lives Matter Network UK
  60. Lisa J Robinson, Black Lives Matter UK: Nottingham Activist Group
  61. Kayza Rose, Co- Founder & Executive Director of BlackoutLDN
  62. Runnymede Trust
  63. Minna Salami, Writer, Commentator and Blogger at MsAfropolitan.com
  64. Karen Salt, Co-Director of Centre for Research in Race and Rights, University of Nottingham
  65. Severine Seales, human rights activist
  66. Salifu Dagarti Foundation
  67. Haja Salifu, Agriculturalist, CEO / Founder Dagarti CIC & Salifu Dagarti Foundation
  68. Dee Searle, Co-Chair, Camden Green Party
  69. Awula Serwah, Secretary for Africans For Jeremy Corbyn Values
  70. Marika Sherwood, Black & Asian Studies Association; Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London
  71. Robbie Shilliam, Reader in International Relations, Queen Mary University of London
  72. Iyiola Solanke, Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Leeds
  73. Mojisola Sorunke, IJAPA (Tales by Moonlight for all Ages)
  74. Devon Stewart, Community Activist, Rastafari Universal Zion
  75. Sussex Race Equality Action Project
  76. Bev Thomas, Social Justice Activist
  77. Arthur Torrington CBE, Secretary, Windrush Foundation / The Equiano Society
  78. Patrick Vernon OBE, Associate Fellow, Warwick University
  79. Glenroy Watson, President London Transport Regional Council (LTRC) RMT, Secretary of Global Afrikan Congress UK (GACuk), Secretary Black Solidarity Committee (BSC)
  80. Cecile Wright, Honorary Professor of Sociology, School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Nottingham , Co-Chair of The Black Studies Association
  1. ”African people” and “Africans” in this statement include Africans from the continent and in the diaspora who are referred to by the UN as people of African descent and also the British census categories of Black/African/Caribbean/Black British and people mixed with Black African or Caribbean. ↩︎

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