Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Integration and Togolese Abroad - Togo
Chief Negotiator of ACP Group for Post-Cotonou 2020 agreement - Professor of Political Philosophy

Prof. Robert Dussey

Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Integration and Togolese Abroad - Togo
Chief Negotiator of ACP Group for Post-Cotonou 2020 agreement - Professor of Political Philosophy

JMCA 2024: Speech by Robert DUSSEY at UNESCO

9th Pan-African Congress in Lomé from October 29 to November 2, 2024

Madam President of the General Conference of UNESCO,

Madam Chair of the Executive Board of UNESCO,

Madam Director-General of UNESCO,

Distinguished Ambassadors, Permanent Delegates of your various States to UNESCO,

Dear brothers and sisters of the African and Afrodescendant diasporas,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today we are celebrating the fifth World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture, the first to be held here at UNESCO headquarters. This event, which has been able to mobilise so many people from so many horizons, testifies to its transcultural dimension, and reflects the interest of UNESCO and the various participants in the rich cultural traditions of Africa and Afrodescendants, and in culture as a vector for human links and between the peoples of the world.

In taking the initiative to commemorate the fifth World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture, which would not have been possible without the support of Member States and backing of UNESCO, Togo was undoubtedly mindful of UNESCO’s excellent and courageous work in the field of cultural diversity and the promotion of African history and cultures.

Madam Director-General, I would like to congratulate you on your personal commitment and on UNESCO’s determination to promote and preserve the cultural traditions of Africa and Afro-descendant communities, which are significant parts of human culture. African cultures are the common property of humanity, and the “civilisation of the Universal”, so dear to President Léopold Sédar Senghor, can only come about as an opportunity of self-fulfilment for each and every one of us if all cultural traditions have their place in it.

A great sage and well-known African figure in the arcane world of UNESCO in the 1960s, I mean the Malian Amadou Hampâté BÂ, declared in 1985: “The diversity of men, cultures and civilisations makes the beauty and richness of the world”, just as “the beauty of a carpet lies in the variety of its colours”. We thank UNESCO for continuing, through such events, to remind the world that human diversity is not incompatible with human unity, that humanity is one, but is achieved through a diversity of cultures. Peoples have had various relationships with the world, and culture expresses the specific relationships of each people with the world.

Madam President of the General Conference,

Madam Chair of the Executive Council,

Madam Director-General,

Distinguished guests,

Establishing 24th January as “World Day for African and Afrodescendant Culture” in 2019, on the occasion of the 40th session of the General Conference, is in line with several UNESCO initiatives, including inter alia, the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), through which the United Nations General Assembly reaffirmed the importance of the contribution of African cultures to building a prosperous world ; the “Routes of Enslaved Peoples” Project , whose thirtieth anniversary we are commemorating this year (2024), has contributed to “breaking” the silence surrounding the history of slavery and inscribing it in the universal memory as a tragedy unworthy of man’s humanity and unacceptable; and the “General History of Africa” Project, whose volume X has recently been published, traces the history of the continent and its diasporas.

Every year since 2019, it is cultural diversity that we celebrate through the World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture. The celebration of the JMCA reflects our commitment to inclusive and participatory universalism, as opposed to universalism that is overbearing and inhospitable to cultural difference, in the words of the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor.

This event is of major interest for us African peoples and Afro-descendant communities, as we remain convinced, like Cheikh Anta Diop, that culture remains the essential pillar of the African renaissance. There are no landmarks without roots, and culture is one of the essential factors of human behaviour, enabling human societies to find their bearings in today’s world, which is at risk of unprecedented disorganisation.

The celebration of cultural diversity is a place of learning and mutual understanding. “The great problem of life is mutual understanding“, said Amadou Hampâté BÂ. This is the challenge of mutual human understanding that UNESCO and its Member States are helping the world to take up through initiatives to celebrate cultural heritage, including the World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture (JMCA). Making cultural links the foundation of peace in the world: this is UNESCO’s challenge, which Togo supports in the service of a humanity reconciled with itself.

Madam President of the General Conference,

Madam Chair of the Executive Council,

Madam Director General,

Distinguished guests,

By highlighting the concept of ‘Global Africa’, the theoretical and practical issues of which were elucidated in volume X of the General History of Africa, this edition of JMCA highlights not only the relationship between Africa and people of African descent living outside Africa, but also the dissemination of African cultural values and traditions throughout the world. African mobility in time and space has made Africanity a reality on the move and without borders. Africa fertilises the world through its sons and Afro-descendants wherever they may be in the world, since human beings travel with cultural traditions that they carry within themselves and that they distil around them. Therefore, as Alain Mbanckou puts it, “Africa is no longer just in Africa. By dispersing throughout the world, Africans are creating other Africas, attempting other adventures, which may well be beneficial to the promotion of the cultures of the black continent”.

Africanity (I hope the panellists will tell us about its content) , which is expressed in Benin as well as in Brazil, in Haiti as well as in Jamaica, in Martinique as well as in Barbados and in every corner of the world, where Africans and Afro-descendants are found , carries positive values of peace, dialogue and mutual acceptance between peoples. In the tumultuous world we live in today, which is becoming increasingly conflictual, there is an urgent need for additional humanism and fraternity, for which we can find the recipes in Africanity. By promoting African perspectives in understanding and resolving the major challenges of our time, as part of a collective movement, humanity will gain in cohesion and be able to reconcile with itself and with nature.

Because one of the defining characteristics of Africanity is openness, Africanity is therefore at one with otherness ; it is not the confinement of oneself in a closed and isolating identity, but a way of being oneself and with others. It is an African way of being open to the diversity of the world. The concept of Ubuntu, developed in post-apartheid South Africa, better reflects this relational dimension of Africanity as a lived experience and a place of fundamental ontological relationships.

Through the concept of Ubuntu, Africanity contrasts the Cartesian “I think, therefore I am” with the “I am because the other one is” and the “I am because we are”. In other words, Africanity enables us to see the world as a web of relationships. It is the other name for the relationship that constitutes us and enables us to make a world of togetherness. The courage to build a world of togetherness is the bulwark that we need to oppose the dangerous return of extremism and ethnonationalism in today’s world. Creating a world together in a plural humanity is the great challenge of our time.

Madam President of the General Conference,

Madam Chair of the Executive Council,

Madam Director General,

Distinguished guests,

The submission by Togo of the draft resolution that led to the recognition of 24 January as World Day for African and Afro-descendant Culture is not by chance, but it is in line with a policy that my country has been pursuing for years, aimed at mobilising all forces (Africans in Africa, Diasporas and Afro-descendants) in order to restore Africa and its culture to their rightful place in the concert of nations.

It was with this conviction that Togo brought to the African Union an initiative that led the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of our continental organisation, at its 34th session held on 7 and 8 February 2021, to declare the decade 2021-2031 the “Decade of African Roots and Diasporas”. The Conference also designated Togo as the AU champion for the Decade.

I would like to inform you that as part of the implementation of the “Decade of African Roots and Diasporas” Agenda, Togo and the African Union will be co-organising the 9th Pan-African Congress in Lomé, from 29th October to 2nd November 2024, on the theme: “Revival of Pan-Africanism and Africa’s place in global governance: mobilising resources and reinventing ourselves to act “. This Congress, the preparatory stage of which will take place in Brazil in the first half of this year, will not only ensure the historical continuity of the Pan-Africanist movement, but will also rekindle the flame of Pan-Africanism in the current context, where Africa is struggling to make its voice truly heard on the world stage.

The 9th Pan-African Congress will be a special opportunity for Africans living on the continent, in the Diaspora and Afro-descendants in particular, to reflect on the question of their human, political, cultural, social and societal future in an increasingly unstable world, lacking collective responsibility and concerted governance involving Africa. African countries will have to think about how to invent a form of human association, a political organisation and new visions in order to define what they want and can do for themselves and by themselves.

The current challenge is to revitalise pan-Africanism in the interests of Africa and its diasporas around the world, and we believe that the World Day for African and Afrodescendant Culture provides a wonderful framework for this. Africa’s relationship with Afrodescendants must not be just a relationship turned towards and based on the past, aimed at reaffirming their African identity. It must be seen in the context of the present and, above all, the future, a future to be built together within the framework of pan-Africanism and intercultural dialogue.

I’m inviting you all to register to take part in this event, which will mark a decisive turning point in the history of the African continent and in its links with the diaspora, which has a clear interest in mobilising because this 9th Pan-African Congress also aims to find answers to the strong aspirations of the diaspora and Afro-descendants regarding their African origins, roots or identities.

Madam Director General,

Dear brothers and sisters in the Diaspora,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

JMCA is one of the rare events that bring together people from several continents. In this regard, I would like to pay tribute to the enthusiasm shown by the GRULAC countries and their involvement in the organisation of this day, which today serves as a link between several peoples with a shared cultural background, and also as a marker of our ability to work in synergy towards common goals.

I would like to launch a solemn appeal to all the organisations and groupings of associations of the African and Afrodescendant diasporas throughout the world to join in this initiative so that together we can lay the foundations for strengthening the links between Africans and all those who claim African descent. There is a page of history to be written and every African, every Afrodescendant can contribute to it.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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