Statement by H.E. Ambassador Néstor Osorio, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations, Opening of an art show - Afro-Descent
October 19, 2011
Sponsored by: UN Secretary General and Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Celebrating the International Year of African Descent
Your Excellency Mr. Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon.
Your Excellency Mrs. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of the Government of Colombia I convey to you our congratulations for this wonderful art show sponsored by you, Mr. Secretary General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which highlights the art, aesthetics and cultural legacy of peoples of African descent in our country. This legacy enriches and ennobles our culture, our behavior and our vision of the world and thus constitutes an invaluable attribute of all Colombians.
The people of African descent represent 10.8% of our population, and they play a significant role in our society. This is why my country took the lead in actively promoting the adoption of resolution 64/169 proclaiming 2011 as the International Year of African descendants. This celebration is carried out to honour them.
In Colombia we have a strong commitment to defend and to protect the human rights and economic and social development of the African Descent. This commitment stems not only from the constitutional mandate to recognize and protect the cultural and ethnic diversity of our nation, but from the political will of the Government to protect these communities and to foster the enjoyment and exercise of their rights.
To fulfill this mandate, Colombia has a solid institutional framework responsible for designing policies and programs that serve these communities. The government of President Juan Manuel Santos created the Presidential Program for the Development of Strategies and Actions for the Integral Development of the Afro-Colombian Communities, in order to provide advice to national on regional authorities on specific public policies designed to benefit this population.
The Government also crafted a policy to promote equal opportunities seeking to improve economic and social development. Our policy highlights the diverse cultural manifestations will allowing preservation of their traditions.
Last April, a National Development Plan was established, and for the first time in Colombian history, it was previously consulted and discussed with these communities. The Plan was presented in the city of Quibdó, Chocó, a region with the largest black Afro-Colombian population in the country.
Last May, the President of Colombia and his ministers participated in a space for democratic dialogue called the "Prosperity Agreement" which addressed the needs and development processes to be held this year. This agreement took place in Cali, one of the most important cities of the country with a large proportion of Afro Descent. In the economic field, a conference on "Innovative Policies for social inclusion and recognition of the Afro" was held in the same city. This conference was attended by businessmen, traders and the general public, and sough to stimulate entrepreneurship and business opportunities.
We commemorate the 160th anniversary of the signing of the Freedom of Slaves Act in Colombia, with two events, to exalt the culture, history and identity of communities in Cartagena de Indias, which in the colonial period was the harbour that registered the greatest number of slaves entering the country. The other event took place In San Basilio de Palenque, a place where the first freed slaves settled and that has preserved its own language and culture since then and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Moreover, to highlight the important role of Afro women, the Second International Encounter of Afro Women was organized to discuss the themes and elements critical to the social inclusion of afro women in the world and in the socioeconomic sector in Colombia. The Afro Women Observatory and the International Women's Day were established, as well as the presentation of "Maternal Histories" which described the valuable contributions that afro women have made to the Colombian Nation.
We have invited the International Scientific Committee of the Slave Route Project of UNESCO to meet in Bogotá and Cartagena which facilitated the exchange of experiences, studies and contacts among experts from Colombia and other countries regarding the questions on the consequences and legacies of the people who survived the difficult situation of human trafficking.
The Festival of Languages was inaugurated and became a scenario for the recognition of the various population groups in Colombia. On May 21 of this year, in line with UNESCO's Declaration to proclaim the Day of Cultural Diversity, the National Day of Afro-Colombians was celebrated. We took the opportunity to show the importance and pride that Colombia places on the values of cultural dialogue, interaction and exchange of knowledge. It also paid special tribute to the great artists of African descent who have enhanced our country music. An Ibero-American Black Culture Event also took place, with the participation of representatives from different countries on education, culture, research and development, accompanied by cultural and gastronomic expressions.
Finally, in the international arena, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs held among others, a Foreign Policy Seminar for all Colombian African Descent Communities Between 24 and 26 may 2011, in Panama. A series of conferences with citizens, government, diplomatic corps, business man associations and the media were held on the political and cultural progress for African Descent communities. Additionally, last summer, representatives of Colombia took part on over 15 music concerts, including those in Berlin, Vienna, London, Rome, Poland, Warsaw, Lisbon, Ottawa, San José de Costa Rica and Kingston to commemorate the International Year of African Descent.
Mr. Secretary General, Mrs. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the commemoration of the International Year of African Descent has been a great opportunity for Colombia to make visible our commitment to the rights of all Colombian African Descent Communities.
Thank you for your kind invitation to enjoy this great evening.
Thank you very much.