Statement on People of African Descent


The powerful calls for change that civil rights and anti-racism movements have been making for decades are reverberating around the world.

Brave individuals, communities, families of victims, have denounced racism, its legacies, and its horrendous consequences, reaching into every part of society and life.

Their voices and actions have resulted in a long-delayed reckoning with racial discrimination and systemic racism.

Demanding comprehensive action to eradicate this scourge.

Many of those courageous people are in the room today.

Participating in this first ever meeting of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent.

An historic platform for people of African descent to be heard.

Representing an important milestone on the path towards transformative change.

Dear participants,

Amidst an alarming increase in racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia around the world.

The voices of people of African descent need to be heard. And acted upon.

Civil society has been pivotal in pressing for systemic reform, including through strategic litigation.

Denouncing racism, through peaceful assembly and free expression, is a crucial way to effect this transformation.

My Office and I, as High Commissioner, will continue to support those standing up against racism and other forms of discrimination so that they are not discredited, harassed, intimidated or subjected to increased surveillance.

Dear participants,

This Forum is an opportunity to take concerted action.

Galvanising the power of collective action and a global consensus to address racism and racial discrimination is urgent for all of us.

The elaboration of a United Nations Declaration on the promotion, protection and full respect of the human rights of people of African descent is vital for a more effective response to systemic racism and racial discrimination. And so is a reinvigorated engagement on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Next year will mark the ninth year of the International Decade for People of African Descent. As Coordinator of the Decade, I look forward to working with you to assess how much further we need to go. The work of this Forum will be critical to amplify the International Decade’s calls for recognition, justice and development.

But more must be done.

We urgently need disaggregated data. So that we have better clarity on systemic racism and its causes and consequences. To monitor the effectiveness of policy measures.

States must take robust steps to confront the legacies of the past – including colonialism and enslavement – and their lasting consequences, including through reparatory justice.

The unequivocal demands for change need to be heard and heeded in the halls of every Ministry, of every court, of every police station, in every country.

My Office’s Agenda towards Transformative Change for Racial Justice and Equality provides a blueprint for action.

Distinguished participants,

As the families of victims have emphasized, “together we are stronger”.

To forge a new and just social contract.

For a better future of all humankind.

I wish you fruitful discussions and a successful outcome.

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