Racism is a global problem, and every country must take a stance against it, General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi said on Monday, addressing the latest meeting of a UN platform to improve the safety and quality of life of people of African descent worldwide.
“Racism and xenophobia continue to spoil our communities, like scars that spoil the fabric of society. The hatred and violence they engender persist, demanding our collective efforts to eradicate racial violence in all its forms,” he told the second session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent.
Mr. Kőrösi said overcoming this requires recognizing our shared humanity, as the “unacknowledged legacies” of slavery and segregation persist today through
oppressive and racially violent prison systems, inequalities in access to healthcare, and exclusion from the workforce.
“We must do away with these inhumane and shameful inheritances, and we must do it now,” he said, speaking in the General Assembly Hall. “I firmly believe that by reflecting on these painful legacies, we can truly transform the injustices of the past into the freedoms of the future.”
Act with urgency
The Permanent Forum was established in 2021 by the General Assembly, following years of deliberations, and in line with the International Decade for People of African Descent, which runs through 2024.
The body will contribute to advancing a UN declaration on the promotion and full respect of the rights of people of African descent, the theme of the current session.
Its establishment crystalized international commitment to accelerate along the path towards full equality and justice for people of African descent everywhere, UN Secretary-General António Guterressaid in a video message to the gathering.
He called for recognizing and repairing longstanding wrongs stemming from centuries of slavery and colonialism.
“We must act with greater urgency to rid our societies of the scourge of racism, and ensure the full political, economic and social inclusion of people of African descent as equal citizens, without discrimination,” he said.
A problem everywhere
The fact that racism knows no borders was made clear by Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who highlighted the constant abuse heaped on Brazilian footballer Vinícius Júnior, who plays for Spanish club Real Madrid.
“The lesson we can draw from these unforgivable episodes is that Vini Jr, a 22-year-old, is capable of standing up to hostile crowds, there is no doubt that we can and must do more to interrupt this dehumanizing circuit of violence,” he said in a video message.
Brazil’s Minister of Racial Equality, Anielle Franco, took to the podium to reinforce President Lula’s call for renewing the International Decade for People of African Descent, with a focus on memory, reparations and justice
“Peace, democracy, international security, the fight against inequalities and the guarantee of human rights will only coexist when centuries of systemic racism — which is characterized by dehumanization, subjugation, trauma, the erasure of our culture and psychological violence – are repaired,” she said, drawing applause from the room.
Tribute to activists
More than a thousand people are taking part in the Forum, which concludes on Friday. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, paid tribute to the large number of activists and civil society representatives in their ranks.
“Many of you have been vital to the continuing efforts of global anti-racism movements, including protests in 2020 that, among other things, helped to expedite the establishment of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent,” he said in a video message.
Mr. Türk noted that for far too long, racial discrimination has been treated as a social issue, instead of a severe human rights violation.
“It is urgent that we both hold individuals accountable for acts of racism and racial discrimination, and also consider more profoundly the role of structures and systems of discrimination and oppression that replicate and nurture racial hierarchies,” he said.