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Continuing the Demand for Reparations

By Dr. Conrad Worrill

We must regain the momentum the Reparations Movement had in the first few years of this century. The United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa recognized the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery as a Crime Against Humanity for which Reparations are due!

The U.N. declared 2011, the “Year for People of African Descent.” Different activities were planned. As Malcolm X taught us, we must use the international arena to highlight our National Human Rights’ Demand for Reparations! Let us review the work of the December 12th Movement and NBUF that lead up to the World Conference Against Racism.

In 1999, the National Black United Front (NBUF) joined forces with the December 12th Movement in organizing a delegation of Africans in America to attend the United Nations World Conference Against Racism. The conference was held in Durban, South Africa from August 31st to September 7, 2001. We should never forget the impact and significance of this organizing project.

The December 12th Movement International Secretariat, the International Association Against Torture, North South XXI has official Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status with the United Nations. Over the last 20 years, this group has committed much of its organizing efforts to participating in the United Nations Human Rights Commission by presenting numerous issues that impact African people in America. They have been NBUF’s eyes and ears at the U.N.

As Attorney Roger Wareham of the December 12th Movement revealed in an article circulated on the internet, “Since 1997, when the U.N. agreed to hold this World Conference, the United States, Canada, and Western Europe (the WEO Group of countries) have done all they can to prevent it from succeeding.”

In the spring of 1998, at the African Group meeting during the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, a Resolution was drafted identifying the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade as a Crime Against Humanity. The United States used all of its influence and blocked the resolution. However, this did not stop the momentum throughout the African World to pursue this resolution’s becoming an official position of the United Nations World Conference Against Racism.

At the African Regional Preparatory Conference, for the World Conference Against Racism, held in Dakar, Senegal (January 22-24, 2001), the African Ministers developed what has been called the “Dakar Declaration.” In their deliberations, they affirmed, in part, the following:

  • Affirm that the slave trade is a unique tragedy in the history of humanity, particularly against Africans— a crime against humanity which is unparalleled, not only in its abhorrent barbaric feature, but also, in terms of its enormous magnitude, its institutionalized nature, its transnational dimension and especially its negation of the human nature of the victims.
  • Further affirm that the consequences of this tragedy accentuated by those of colonialism and apartheid, have resulted in substantial and lasting economic, political, and cultural damage caused to the descendants of the victims, the perpetuation of the prejudice against Africans on the continent and people of African descent in the Diaspora.
  • Strongly reaffirm that States which pursued racist policies or acts of racial discrimination, such as slavery, colonialism, and apartheid, should assume their full responsibilities and provide adequate reparations to those States, communities and individuals who were victims of such racist policies or acts, regardless of when or by whom they were committed.

International law supports the position that the enslavement of Africans was a crime against humanity. The Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal defined crimes against humanity in this manner: “Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population… whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetuated.”

The African Reparations Movement explains that, “Historians and their experts can show, without difficulty, how the invasion of African territories, the mass capture of Africans, the horrors of the Middle Passage, the chattelization of Africans in America, and the extermination of the language and culture of the transported Africans, constituted violations of all these international laws.” Thus, the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade was a Crime Against Humanity and, it is clear, African people are owed reparations throughout the world.

Again, as Attorney Wareham explains, “Before the U.N. World Conferences are actually held, they are preceded by PrepCom (Preparatory Committee meetings) in the various geographical regions of the world where the actual content of the final document, the program of action was worked out, and the PreComs were completed. All of the regional PreComs are over. In Geneva, Switzerland, a working group meeting was held March 6–9, 2001 to consider a Draft Declaration (the Durban Declaration) and tried to resolve a dispute about whether compensatory relief (i.e. reparations) should even be considered as a theme of the World Conference. This was only an issue because of U. S. and Western European opposition.” The dispute was not settled and another meeting was held in May in Geneva.

The New York Times revealed, “A conference on racism this summer could be one of the most explosive meetings this organization (United Nations) has ever held, with moves afoot to cast globalization as a racial issue and to demand reparations for the slave trade and colonialism.”

For more than 20 years, the December 12th Movement International Secretariat has fought in defense of the human rights of African people at the United Nations, in both Switzerland and New York. During this time, they have come to help us understand that while we, as African people, may not recognize the importance of the international agency to the progress of our struggle, but the United States and its allies are crystal clear about it.

NBUF agrees with the December 12th Movement that we must continue to organize at the international level in bringing the issues of African people before the world and especially the issue of Reparations. One way we can continue this work is to organize around the United Nations declared 2011 “Year for People of African Descent.”

Dr. Conrad Worrill, Professor Emeritus, Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies (CCICS). New office location is at 1809 E. 71st Street, Chicago, Illinois 60649, 773-592-2598. Email:cwworrill@-  Website:

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