The Accra Conference on Reparations gets underway on Tuesday Nov. 14

The following article is republished from CARICOM Today and was written by Timothy Austin on November 14, 2023.

Tuesday, 14 November 2023 (CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown):  Dr Carla Barnett, Secretary-General, CARICOM, shared that reparations from Europe for the crimes against humanity of native genocide, the trans-Atlantic trade in enslaved Africans and chattel enslavement in the Region is a priority for CARICOM Heads of Government.

The Secretary-General spoke via a video message at the ACCRA Reparations Conference, convened today, 14 November 2023, at the Kempinski Gold Coast Hotel in Accra, Ghana.  The conference is intended to facilitate meaningful discussions and knowledge sharing among experts, policymakers, academics, and stakeholders on the topic of reparations for historical injustices such as colonialism, apartheid, and slavery.

The theme of the Conference is “Building a United Front to Advance the Cause of Justice and the Payment of Reparations to Africans”. 

Critical stakeholders

Legal experts, policymakers, academics, and stakeholders from the Caribbean Region, Reparations Commissions-Americas and the Caribbean, the UN System, California Reparations Task Force, African Civil Society organisations, and Regional Economic Communities of African Union (AU) Member States and Diaspora Focal Points are attending the conference, which will conclude on 17 November.

Moving the Reparations Justice Agenda Forward

In her message, Dr Barnett emphasised that CARICOM Heads of Government agree that collaboration with Africa on reparations is critical to moving the reparations justice agenda further forward. “They have expressed their full support for the convening of the Accra Reparations Conference as a strategic and prime opportunity to forge a common, collaborative agenda between the Caribbean and Africa on reparations”, stated the Secretary-General.

She explained that it is in this context that CARICOM welcomed the update that the African Union is also seeking to develop a common position on reparations and a roadmap for future collaboration with the African diaspora on reparatory justice. “The Accra Reparations Conference is, therefore, timely to facilitate dialogue on the reparations agenda,” added Dr Barnett. 

CARICOM – AU Cooperation

Recent meetings of CARICOM Heads of Government have tabled important proposals for cooperation with the African Union on reparations. “They would welcome collaboration to co-sponsor a resolution on reparations at the United Nations, to signal our joint commitment and our position that reparatory justice ought to receive due consideration by the United Nations”, underscored Dr Barnett. 

International Court of Justice

She further highlighted that Heads of Government propose to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice, through the United Nations General Assembly. “We invite the African Union to join us in this campaign”, stated the Secretary-General, “We are also working to have reparations included on the agenda of key meetings of intergovernmental bodies.  We hope that we can establish appropriate mechanisms to facilitate cooperation on reparations between CARICOM and Africa, including the proposed joint CARICOM-African Union committee of legal experts.”

Dr Barnett stated that CARICOM welcomes the establishment and excellent advocacy, consultative and research initiatives of the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent and anticipates deepening collaboration with this body, which includes two distinguished CARICOM representatives.

Deepening Cooperation

She shared that CARICOM-Africa cooperation has increased in several areas following the First CARICOM-Africa Summit of Heads of Government held in September 2021.  “AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forums have been held in Barbados and Guyana in 2022 and 2023, respectively. The AU-ECOSOCC Study Tour on Reparations was held in Barbados in July 2023.  The Caribbean Community has also participated in the Reparations and Racial Healing Summit in August 2022 in Ghana and welcomes the increased focus on the return of stolen cultural property to both the Caribbean and Africa,” underscored the Secretary-General.

She concluded by urging stakeholders to seize the moment and ensure that CARICOM, Africa and others from the diaspora speak with one voice to advance the just and strong call for reparations for the crimes against humanity of native genocide, the trans-Atlantic trade in enslaved Africans and chattel enslavement. 

Watch the full message below.