Making cross-party progress on reparatory justice
We discussed whether the London Assembly might pass a motion calling for the campaign’s main call for the establishment of an All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for Truth and Reparatory Justice.
I took this idea to Jennette Arnold an Assembly Member in the Labour Group to see if she thought we could propose such a motion together. While it was not possible at that time, I was glad to see Jennette propose a motion this month, calling on the Mayor to recognise and formally mark the United Nations International Decade for Peoples of African Descent, running from 2015-2024. The full motion text is at the bottom of this post.
Green Group amendment:
“This Assembly also notes that the UN International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024 calls on those that have not yet expressed remorse or presented apologies to find some way to contribute to the restoration of the dignity of victims. This Assembly therefore asks the Mayor to support calls for the establishment of an All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for Truth and Reparatory Justice.”
My speech proposing the amendment:
“I am so glad that Assembly Member Arnold has brought this motion – it is something we discussed last summer so I am pleased to hear it today.
However, I am proposing an amendment, not to detract from this motion or water down its aims – but to make it more inclusive of the asks of campaigners – and those are the voices I am bringing to the Assembly today.
This motion recognises the UN’s International Decade for peoples of African Descent and asks that the Mayor’s work reflects some of the actions listed in the Decade. It rightly highlights celebrating Black history, improving education – and – anti-discrimination policies.
We on the Green Group believe there is a simple to fix omission in this motion and that is the issue of reparatory justice.
The UN International Decade for peoples of African Descent also has under the programme of activities for the justice theme the text:
“Inviting the international community and its members to honour the memory of the victims of these tragedies with a view to closing those dark chapters in history and as a means of reconciliation and healing;
Further noting that some have taken the initiative of regretting or expressing remorse or presenting apologies, and calling on all those that have not yet contributed to restoring the dignity of the victims to find appropriate ways to do so and, to this end, appreciating those countries that have done so.”
In London we owe so much to Africans and people of African descent – and not just here in this city, but in all our connections and communities all over the world.
Let me remind everyone listening here today that it was only in 2015 that our Government stopped paying off the debt they took on to “compensate” businesses and people “forced” to stop trading in human lives.
And over the last 200 years the equivalent of £17 billion pounds in today’s money has been paid out.
This so-called “compensation” went the wrong way.
I spoke with the Stop the Maangamizi campaign just yesterday, a group co-led by the extraordinary legal expert Esther Stanford-Xosei and Kofi Mawuli Klu.
She told me that the first thing her campaign group is asking for is to be heard. For us to hear about the impact of intergenerational harm, for us to hear about what communities are doing to prevent this harm, and for us to hear about how they are healing from this harm.
She asked me to tell you that real reparations mean not just addressing historical enslavement and the money made in human suffering,
But real reparations means recognizing the critical future role that communities and individuals who continue to suffer have to play.
It is vital that communities from the African diaspora are at the heart of the process of any investigation into reparations. Their voices, their stories, their solutions, should be the driving force.
But even working out how to do that starts with establishing a commission to study the impact and legacy of our country’s involvement in slavery and what reparatory justice means.
This is why the amendment I have brought to you today calls on the Mayor to support the establishment of an All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for Truth & Reparatory Justice.
I hope you will vote for this amendment.”
Though the amendment did not pass I was left hopeful by the response of my fellow assembly colleagues, passing Jennette’s motion with applause and Jennette’s generous words as she summed up:
“There are parliamentarians who should be looking to themselves and asking themselves why aren’t they doing their job, and asking directly to my colleague, Lord Simon Wooley, and I would like to meet up with him and Assembly Member Russell because I think he would be the ideal chair for this all-party parliamentary commission.”
“I wish you all the very best with your campaign.”
I am optimistic that we can build on the progress Jennette has made in putting forward her motion, and I look forward to working with her cross party to build support for an All-Party Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry for Truth and Reparatory Justice.
Jennette Arnold AM’s motion is here passed unanimously by the Assembly on February 4, 2021.
You can also watch Jennette Arnold AM proposing her motion as well as her closing comments, and my Green Party London Assembly Member colleague Sian Berry on why she seconded the motion.
My speech is here:
The full text of Jennette’s motion:
“This Assembly is committed to eradicating and ending racial injustice and anti-Black racism. In our pursuit of these aims, the London Assembly is passing this motion to recognise formally and mark the United Nations International Decade for peoples of African Descent running from 2015-2024.
This Assembly recognises the work undertaken by the Mayor of London in promoting diversity and inclusion, and celebrating Black Londoners through Black History Month activities, the Commission for Diversity in the Public Realm, and working with the Black Curriculum to provide relevant education resources and to review the London Curriculum.
This Assembly calls on the Mayor of London to recognise formally and mark the UN’s Decade by embedding in policies where possible, the UN’s General Assembly resolution on the International Decade for People of African Descent. The Mayor’s work should reflect the following requests from the Programme of Activities for the Implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent:
- Work with schools and community organisations to ensure that the educational histories and narratives of Black people are properly taught and celebrated in schools across London all year round;
- Work on reviewing and reworking policies that continue to have a discriminatory effect on peoples of African descent across London;
- Consider establishing policy directives to mainstream equality and non-discrimination considerations in all policy-making, including measures to ensure the equal enjoyment of rights and opportunities for people of African descent; and
- Ensure that the end of the decade is marked in 2024, celebrating progress made in moving towards racial justice.”