On 19 February 2016 a meeting on “Pertinence of affirmative actions and intercultural competences for the effective exercise of human rights in Central America” took place in San José, Costa Rica. This event gathered participants from central and regional governments, mayors, judges, researchers, and civil society organizations from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and Panama. Their aim was to raise awareness about equality, eradication of discriminatory practices and human rights concerning people of African descent, and indigenous and migrant populations, and to promote intercultural dialogue in Central America.
In this meeting, co-organized by UNESCO and the Presidential Commissioner for Affairs of African Descendants of Costa Rica, an agreement was reached regarding the value of affirmative actions. They are important, but must not be considered as sufficient, since they cannot transform structural inequalities present in our societies. In addition, it is necessary to work at different levels and with different tools, integrating areas such as health, education and access to justice.
Participants acknowledged that discrimination is still very present in our societies, and even though we have developed sound legal frameworks to address the issue. The main challenge remains cultural. How can we change cultural patterns that (re)produce multiple discrimination, for example concerning ethnicity, gender and class?
Working together among all groups concerned is imperative for inclusion, for the fight against discrimination and for the respect of human rights. This is why this kind of spaces for discussion are so relevant, according to Quince Duncan, the Commissioner for Affairs of African Descendants of Costa Rica. They allow to exchange knowledge and build alliances. In particular, alliances with municipalities are vital. These institutions are close to their communities, manage public spaces and understand the potential of their constituencies.
For Charaf Ahmimed of UNESCO dialogue is important because it will not be a one-time event. This is the beginning of a project that will support communities to build trust, a common vision, and programmes in collaboration with local governments, through the acquisition of intercultural competencies.
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