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 2. State delegations

The following UN member states participated in the Regional PrepCom for the Americas: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.

This section briefly highlights some perspectives of a few of the participating government delegations. It is worth noting that the United States and Canada participated jointly with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean for the first time within the framework of the preparatory process for a World Conference. The presence of these two countries affected the dynamics of the Regional PrepCom in important ways. It was generally a positive development that for these purposes, North America was grouped with the Americas, as opposed to with Western Europe as it usually is. Nevertheless, on key issues such as reparations, globalization, and the legacy of colonialism and slavery, there was a clear alignment of Caribbean and Latin American countries supporting more progressive positions than the United States and Canada.

  1. United States
  2. The government delegation from the United States was probably the largest and one of the most active at the Regional PrepCom. Its official position was that it would not accept any compromise in the Final Declaration or Plan of Action that would go further than U.S. domestic laws. The United States strongly opposed issues such as criminalizing racist speech, regulating the Internet, considering slavery and the treatment of slaves as crimes against humanity, and criticizing globalization as an instrument of racial discrimination. On the subject of reparations, the United States only accepted the proposal that dialogue be initiated at the national and international levels to determine the content and necessity of reparations. With respect to indigenous peoples, the United States accepted the use of the term "peoples" provided that it contain a limitation indicating that this did not imply any recognition of the right to self-determination.

    Among the positive aspects of the United States delegation, it is worth mentioning that daily briefings were held with NGOs from the U. S. to inform them of the intergovernmental debates and the positions taken by the governments. With respect to the substantive themes, the United States supported stronger language on the subject of the role of education in the fight against racism, references to racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, the need for collecting and compiling statistics that are disaggregated according to ethnicity and race, as well as a condemnation of anti-Semitism in the region.

  3. Canada
  4. In general, the participation of Canada coincided with the work of the United States. The only aspect in which the Canadian government delegation apparently adopted a stronger and less progressive position than that held by the United States was on the issue of the legacy of colonialism. On that subject, Canada completely opposed any mention of this issue.

    However, the Canadian delegation did insist that the Final Declaration and Plan of Action include sufficient references to the important role that NGOs and civil society play in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

  5. Brazil
  6. The members of the Brazilian government delegation demonstrated their activism and their openness to Brazilian civil society organizations during the Regional PrepCom. It bears remembering that in May of 2000, during the first global PrepCom in Geneva, the government delegation and the Afro-Brazilian organizations had a serious confrontation due to the government’s decision not to organize the regional conference. In the view of many Afro-Brazilians, the situation in Santiago was completely different, with important Afro-Brazilian figures being part of the official delegation and with the government delegates constantly consulting with the Afro-Brazilian organizations and being open to their suggestions. The change of attitude should be attributed, among other things, to the work done by Afro-Brazilian organizations in the months prior to the Regional PrepCom.

    In substantive matters, it deserves mention that the Brazilian government was one of the most ardent proponents of having the Final Declaration and Plan of Action contain categorical language in reference to Afro-descendants.

  7. Barbados
  8. One of the high points in Santiago was the level of activism and vanguard positions taken by the government delegation from Barbados. In particular, the delegation advanced all of the issues related to slavery and colonialism and their contemporary legacies, as well as the need to establish specific mechanisms for reparations both within countries and among States. The Barbados delegation also launched the recognition of Caribbean societies as a model of integration for multiracial societies.

  9. Cuba
  10. In contrast to their participation in the first global PrepCom in May 2000, the Cuban government delegation was not very active in Santiago. While it supported the majority of the more progressive initiatives presented, it did not take on a leadership role. Among the issues which Cuba strongly supported were the condemnation of slavery and colonialism as crimes against humanity, the critique of the effects of globalization, and the affirmation of the close relationship between poverty and racism. One of the issues that the Cuban delegation actively pushed was the criminalization of racist speech and regulation of the Internet. The U.S. delegation clashed with the Cuban delegation on these points, with the United States maintaining that it could not accept those proposals as it is bound by the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, which protects freedom of expression.

  11. Guatemala
  12. Guatemala played an active role in the Santiago meeting. Not only did it act as the General Rapporteur of the Regional PrepCom, it was also the coordinator of an informal working group charged with discussing how the issues of slavery, colonialism and their present legacies would be treated. Guatemala also adopted an advanced position with respect to the rights of indigenous peoples.

  13. Mexico
  14. The principal theme on which the Mexican government delegation worked was the question of migrants. It was the coordinator of a working group on migrants, which reached a consensus on positions and language, despite having to address difficult issues such as xenophobia, the economic costs and contributions of migration, and the need for reforming discriminatory migration laws.

  15. Other States

It is also worth mentioning that Peru insisted that the Final Declaration include specific references to the situation of mestizos. Uruguay, though not in a completely consistent way, defended the positions promoted by the Afro-Latino organizations. Costa Rica and Colombia were open in general to the suggestions of civil society organizations and maintained very progressive positions on issues such as the condemnation of slavery as a crime against humanity. Argentina, however, maintained a highly passive position and only promoted the inclusion of anti-Semitism in the Final Declaration.

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Thanks to Derrick Bell and his pioneer work: 
Race, Racism and American Law
(1993).