rom September 9th
- 11th, the United Nations held its 55th Annual
Department of Public Information and Non-Governmental Organizations
Conference - known internationally as the DPI/NGO Conference. Over 2,300
people representing 709 NGOs traveled from 81 countries to attend this
3-day conference entitled "Rebuilding Societies Emerging from Conflict:
A Shared Responsibility."
The conference recognized the fact that armed conflicts often rivet
international attention while they are going on, but once the violence
subsides and the slow attempts at reconciliation begin, media coverage,
political concern and financial support often diminish, leaving wounded
and disoriented populations to fend for themselves. The purpose of this
conference was to explore the role of the international community in
supporting societies emerging from conflict. It examined what the
efforts toward reconciliation have in common, their shortcomings and
successes, and highlighted some of the best methods that people
previously at war have developed to live together peacefully.
One of the NGOs attending the conference was the National Coalition
of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA). As Onaje Mu'id, Lead
Delegate of N'COBRA's International Commission, stated, the reason it
did so was threefold: 1) to continue its involvement with UN events as a
means of keeping the demand of reparations before the NGO community, 2)
to meet new allies for the demand of reparations for Africans, and 3) to
continue exposing NíCOBRA members to the UN process.
Alternate Lead Delegate of the N'COBRA Delegation was Ibrahim
Abdil-Mu'id Ramey, a long-time activist who has spoken on social justice
and community organizing issues throughout the United States, Africa,
and Asia. On Monday the 9th he represented the Fellowship of
Reconciliation and the Temple of Understanding in a Midday NGO Workshop
titled "Enforcing International Human Rights Law in Societies Emerging
from Conflict: A Religious and Ethical Perspective." With Jeffrey
Huffines moderating, he and Opia Mensah Kuma and Brian Lepard spoke
about the fact that implementing human rights standards in societies
emerging from conflict has been difficult. They identified fundamental
ethical principles of their faiths' traditions which are relevant to the
implementation of human rights standards and then applied them to case
studies based on their experience.
Delegates representing N'COBRA were members William Foster, who
currently serves as President of the New York Metro Chapter of the
African Atlantic Genealogical Society; Dr. Pamela H. Payne, a Preventive
Medicine/Public Health physician; and the current writer, Donna Lamb, a
lecturer on white privilege and Communications Director for CURE, an
organization of white supporters of Black reparations.
the conference meetings, which were attended by about 1,000 people each
day, were not set up for presentations from the floor to the entire
assembly, in the Wednesday morning session titled "Against the Odds: the
Process of Reconciliation," Onaje Muíid had the opportunity to pose a
written question to the assembly. He asked, "As important as it is to
resolve conflict in current or near past violent situations, how can the
promotion of reparations prevent violence, as a last resort to be heard
by oppressed nations, such as the case of Africans in the United States
of America, who have never been repaired after suffering gross human
rights violations for centuries, especially those connected to the Trans
Atlantic Slave Trade, now declared a Crime Against Humanity?"
In response, panel member Daniel Ntoni-Nzinga, the Executive
Secretary of the Inter-Ecclesiastic Committee for Peace in Angola, spoke
about the need to admit responsibility and for justice to be served in
order for reconciliation to take place.
the conference, N'COBRA Delegates had opportunities to meet Delegates
from other organizations working in areas related to the reparations
struggle and to the question of what reparations for descendants of
slavery in the US should look like. When Mr. Muíid was asked what he
especially enjoyed about meeting other NGO Delegates, he replied, "The
rich exchange between Ms. Mari Hollander of the Findhorn Foundation and
myself." And he told of her brief account of Scottish history and of
how, as a compromise, Scottish nobles shipped many Scottish individuals
to America. This compromise was later defeated with the occupation of
Scotland by England, and now after freeing itself from England, this
former colony is moving into its own realm of self-determination.
"I've been very interested in finding out about the transfer of power
in the managing of the Social Services System from England to Scotland,
based on an agreement of several years ago," said Mu'id. "This is a
clear example of what must be contained in the forthcoming reparations
negotiations, and it's very helpful to know about it."
Delegates also found the conference a valuable means of familiarizing
themselves with how things are done at the UN. This was NíCOBRAís first
time attending the DPI/NGO Conference as an NGO, so it marked another
milestone in NíCOBRA's long and proud history of reparations advocacy.
Donna Lamb can be reached at