By Donna Lamb

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.

The 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.


Other 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.

Although 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.

Throughout 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 dlamb@gis.net.

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