Andy Kusi-Appiah

Saturday 27 April 2024

Century for the People of African Descent. 

Dr. Kwaku Kusi-Appiah,


“The Decade is a unique platform that emphasizes the important contribution made by People of African descent to every society and promotes concrete measures to stop discrimination and promote their full inclusion.”

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

“It always seems impossible until it is done.”

Nelson Mandela.

“I know then and I know now, when it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it.”

Claudette Colyin.



The idea of dedicating a whole decade for people of African descent is a brilliant one, and the Unted Nations General Assembly must be commended for putting this in place. But all too soon, this decade is ending, and we will be back to square one! In this short article, I argue that it is now time for our governments (I mean Canadian governments) to take steps to make this decade permanent by passing an Act of parliament, a by-law or any legislative instrument to give the declaration teeth! I argue that any political party that supports such a move will be doing itself a great favour in six major areas:

a) demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

b) addressing systemic issues.

c) engaging with minority communities.

d) enhancing its international reputation and strengthening Canada foreign policy in the Caribbean and on the African continent

e) building coalitions and partnerships and

f) long-term policy impact.


Approximately 200 million people who identify as being of African descent live in the Americas. Many millions more live in other parts of the world, outside of the African continent. According to the Population Reference Bureau’s (PRB) Data sheet for 2023, the population on the African continent was about 1.453 billion (PRB, 2023). In Canada, Statistics Canada puts the Black population at 4,3% of the total Canadian population. By the year 2041, the Black population in Canada will double (Statistics Canada, 2023).

The International Decade for People of African Descent, spanning from 2015 to 2024, was declared by the United Nations General Assembly to promote respect, protection, and fulfillment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for people of African descent. The Decade aimed to foster greater recognition and appreciation for the contributions of people of African descent to societies around the world, as well as to address the challenges and discrimination we face (Pierce, 2022).

Throughout the ‘Decade’, various initiatives, events, and campaigns have been organized by governments, civil society organizations, and international bodies to advance its objectives. These efforts included awareness-raising activities, policy advocacy, cultural celebrations, and community empowerment programs.

More work to do.

While significant strides have been made in some areas, many challenges, including systemic racism, economic disparities, and social inequalities, persist. In this ‘Decade for the People of African Descent’, we witnessed the appointment of the first Black African President of Carleton University. Unfortunately, it is in this same decade that extreme events of epic proportions occurred; George Floyd of the United States of America was brutally assassinated for no reason (Hill et al., 2020). Here in Ottawa, we witnessed the brutal murder of Abdiharman Abdi by our own friendly Ottawa police (Jones & Glowacki, 2020). In that same ‘Decade’, our fine Black professional public servants complain of subtle racism that continue to ignore their educational credentials and passes them over for promotions (May, 2024). Furthermore, the socio-economic negative cycle that new afro-descendant families face in their adopted country is a cause of Black youth vulnerability to mental health issues, drug abuse and criminality..

Moving forward, the legacy of the International Decade for People of African Descent will likely continue to influence efforts to promote racial equality, combat discrimination, and ensure the full enjoyment of human rights for people of African descent worldwide.

Governments to the rescue.

This dream can only be actualized if governments are emboldened, through legislation, to continue with the International Decade for People of African Descent beyond 2024. Continuing initiatives to address the rights and well-being of people of African descent in Canada could indeed benefit, given that systemic racism and inequalities persist in various sectors of Canadian society. Legislation could provide a framework for ongoing efforts to combat racism, promote inclusion, and address the specific needs and concerns of people of African descent. Developing legislation for the continuation of the International Decade for People of African Descent beyond 2024 could offer several potential benefits for any political party in Canada.  For example:

a) Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion: Supporting legislation to continue initiatives for people of African descent demonstrates a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This can enhance a political party’s image as one that values and respects the rights of all Canadians, regardless of ethnicity or background.

b) Addressing Systemic Issues: Legislation aimed at addressing the challenges faced by people of African descent can help tackle systemic racism and inequality within Canadian society. By taking proactive measures to address these issues, a political party can appeal to voters who prioritize social justice and human rights.

c) Engagement with Minority Communities: Supporting initiatives for people of African descent fosters engagement and dialogue with minority communities. This can lead to increased support and trust from these communities, which may translate into electoral support.

d) International Reputation: Showing a commitment to the International Decade for People of African Descent can enhance Canada’s international reputation as a country that values human rights and diversity. This can be particularly important for a country like Canada, which often positions itself as a global leader in human rights and multiculturalism. Furthermore, this could strengthen Canada foreign policy with African and Caribbean countries.

e) Building Coalitions and Partnerships: Supporting legislation for the continuation of the Decade can facilitate partnerships with advocacy groups, civil society organizations, and international bodies working on issues related to racial equity and social justice. Building coalitions around these issues can strengthen a political party’s position and influence.

f) Long-Term Policy Impact: Legislation supporting the continuation of the Decade can have long-term policy impacts by institutionalizing efforts to address the needs of people of African descent. This ensures that initiatives continue beyond the Decade itself and are integrated into broader government policies and programs.

What we must do.

Overall, supporting legislation for the continuation of the International Decade for People of African Descent can align with a political party’s values, enhance its reputation, and strengthen its relationships with diverse communities, ultimately benefiting its electoral prospects. It is essential for governments to engage in meaningful consultation with affected communities, including people of African descent, to ensure that any legislation is responsive to their needs and priorities.

This also implies that our community advocacy groups must be ready to reach out to our politicians and guide them throughout the process. Additionally, if legislation would work, it means that it must be accompanied by concrete action plans, resources, and mechanisms for accountability to ensure its effectiveness in addressing systemic issues.

Works Cited

May, K. (2024). Black public servants locked in three-year legal battle with Ottawa with no end in sight.

Hill, E., Tiefenthaler, A., Triebert, C., Jordan, C., Willis, H. and Stein R. (2020).  How George Floyd Was Killed in Police Custody. The New York Times.

Jones, R.P., Glowacki, L. (2020). Sadness, outrage after officer acquitted in Abdiharman Abdi’s death. CBC News.

Pierce, A (2022). Canada: Championing the international decade of people of African descent, co-chairing the sustainable development goals.

Population Reference Bureau. (2023). World Population Snapshot.

Statistics Canada. (2023). Black Population in Canada to Double.

Statistics Canada. (2023). Black Population in Canada to Double.

United Nations (2020). The Decade.

Dr. Kwaku Kusi-Appiah,a demographer and environmentalist is an adjunct professor at Ottawa’s Carleton University. His research seeks to provide a clearer understanding of non-market strategies that determine access to community resources, and how the resulting inequities shape livelihoods in marginalized spaces of Canada and the developing world. Kwaku Kusi-Appiah was president of the Ghana Association of Ottawa (1995-2003) and senior advisor on Diversity to the Mayor of Ottawa (2004- 2006) where he led many multi-disciplinary teams to solve complex diversity issues in a timely & sensitive manner. In September 2018, Kusi-Appiah was appointed by the Lt. Governor of Ontario as a public member of the Board of Directors of the Ontario College of Social Work and Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW).