miércoles 29 de mayo de 2024
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Saint Lucian Assumes Presidency of UN Permanent Forum for People of African Descent

Castries (The VOICE): Saint Lucia’s Ambassador Hon. Dr June Soomer will make history yet-again next week, when, on Tuesday, April 16, she will be officially installed as the Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum for People of African Descent.

By VOICEReporter

   The Permanent Mission was formally established in 2021 as ‘a consultative mechanism for people of African descent and other relevant stakeholders, to improve the safety and quality of life and livelihoods of people of African descent.’

   The Permanent Forum also serves as an advisory body to the UN Human Rights Council, in line with the program of activities for the implementation of the original International Decade for People of African Descent.

   Ambassador Soomer was last year named as its titular head, ahead of this year’s formal installation on Tuesday.

   The Forum includes representatives of different world regions -including CARICOM-and one of the main criticisms of the UN is its failure to finance and adequately observe the original UN Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), with urgent calls now for a Second Decade.

   In an exclusive interview with The VOICE, Dr Soomer said her mission is “to assist in the dismantling of systemic racism that continues to dehumanize Africans and People of African descent.”

    Explaining how she intends to pursue her mission, the seasoned Caribbean diplomat said she plans to “relentlessly advocate for reparations, as there can be no sustainable development without reparations…”

   This will also be pursued through “lectures on reparations, research to illuminate the discussions and focus on reparations for Indigenous and women of African Descent.”

   The ambassador also foresees “Building historical awareness in both Africa and the Caribbean”, as well as “telling and teaching the history of the Caribbean -and especially Saint Lucia- to better understand our future…”

   Dr Soomer also advocates “Decolonizing our education system, decolonizing our region by removing colonies and assisting in upgrading independence constitutions, as well as research on Caribbean history and lectures at African universities.”

   Another central goal, Dr Soomer says, is “elevating women of African descent.”

   She recalled that in an earlier lecture entitled ‘Stiff-backed Spines’, she had noted “the militancy, defiance and plain speaking of enslaved women in Saint Lucia”, and that there was also “a systematic approach of dehumanization of African women which started in the seventeenth century and set the tone for the continued devaluation of women of African descent to this day.”

   This image, she insists, “has perpetuated the abuse of the black female body while attributing the blame on the victims.”

   Consequently, another of her objectives will be “working towards reinstating the image of women destroyed by a patriarchal construction of women’s bodies which perpetuates violence against black women and working with agencies that deal with the health of women and girls of African descent.”

   Among other objectives identified by Dr Soomer are: “Working on increasing the linkages between Africa and the Caribbean; advising on the opportunities that exist for deepening integration; and writing a proposed Diaspora Policy to ensure articulation of the 6th region.”

   Asked how she intends to consolidate the accumulated work of the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, Ambassador Soomer told The VOICE it would be through “strategically working with UN anti-racism mechanisms, giving a voice to civil society groups, advocating for the 2nd Decade on People of African Descent and for an actionable Declaration on People of African Descent…”

   A University of the West Indies graduate, Dr Soomer received a PhD in History from UWI’s Cave Hill Campus in 1994. She was also the first female to graduate with a doctorate in this discipline at Cave Hill. Ambassador Soomer is also an accomplished author, as well as Chair of the UWI Global Campus Council (formerly known as the UWI Open Campus).

   She has served in the diplomatic, financial and educational fields regionally and internationally, and has over-40 years of academic and professional experience in management, operational and technical areas.

   Dr Soomer was the first woman to serve as St. Lucia’s Ambassador to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and CARICOM, with responsibility for Diaspora Affairs.

   She was an OECS Commissioner and was the first female Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS). In 2021, the Government of Saint Lucia presented her with its highest national award, the Saint Lucia Cross.

   Meanwhile, The Grenada National Reparations Committee (GNRC) has extended congratulations to Dr Soomer, saying she “brings a wealth of experience to the position.”

   GNRC Chair Arley Gill, says: “We couldn’t think of anyone better-suited to Chair the Permanent Forum and we are confident that she’ll provide stellar leadership that will make Saint Lucia and the rest of the Caribbean proud, as she carries out her duties…’’

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The Voice

The Voice

Periódico nacional de Santa Lucía desde 1885. Con sede en Castries, trata temas políticos, económicos, culturales y deportivos. También aborda asuntos del Caribe y el mundo, en sentido general.
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