HomeUnited NationsGeneral Assembly: 62nd Meeting (AM)

General Assembly: 62nd Meeting (AM)

Urging all Governments and actors to heed this call, she noted that “we have the tools and mechanisms to guide action”, also spotlighting two new expert bodies established in 2021 that can help chart the way forward.  The International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in the context of Law Enforcement holds consultations with States and affected individuals, issues communications on individual cases of concern and conducts country visits.  Meanwhile, the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent is working on the elaboration of a United Nations declaration on the promotion, protection and full respect of such peoples’ human rights.  Also underscoring the need to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and its follow-up processes, she stressed that it “remains an essential road map towards racial equality”.“We know that we cannot do this work alone,” he stressed, adding that his administration is investing in community organizations to fight hate, bias and discrimination . Further, it is working to close the opportunity gap with more jobs, job training and affordable housing.  Highlighting a programme called “Breaking Bread, Building Bonds”, he said this initiative will call on New Yorkers to host 1,000 dinners across the city.  Each dinner will have at least 10 people, from different backgrounds and cultures.  Underscoring the revolutionary nature of having conversations and learning from people of all different racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds together, he underscored that there is simply no space for race, gender or sexual orientation discrimination anywhere in the world.  Calling on the international community to be inspired by leaders like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr., in the fight against racism, he said:  “We must join hands from Cape Town to Queens.” For its part, the United Nations is making progress on its strategic action plan to address racism, he reported.  The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Addressing Racism in the Workplace and her anti-racism team are engaging with staff across the Secretariat and developing comprehensive anti-racism training.  There are also anti-racism advocates at senior levels and many staff have participated in anti-racism dialogues.  Going forward, an independent review on past complaints will identify gaps and enhance accountability.  As addressing racism and racial discrimination will require deliberate, coordinated and long-term efforts, he called on all staff to do their part.  “We must turn the aspirations of the Universal Declaration into reality for all people without distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin,” he stressed, adding that:  “In this anniversary year, let’s work together to root out racism and racial discrimination and uphold the dignity and rights of all people, everywhere throughout the world.” The fight against racism requires immense collective efforts at many levels, he stressed, urging the international community to pay closer attention to racial discrimination through education, advocacy, self-reflection, just policy-making and good governance.  “We owe it to the Emmet Tills, the Malik Oussekines, the George Floyds of this world — to all those who have fallen prey to the man-made delusion that is racism.  We owe it to the Marcus Garveys, the Rosa Parkses, the Mahatma Ghandis, the Rigoberta Menchu Tums and the Nelson Mandelas of this world — to all those who have dedicated their lives to combating discrimination and racial violence,” he declared. As the world marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is still far from realizing equality in dignity and rights for all, he pointed out.  Xenophobia, prejudice and hate speech are rising; political leaders scapegoat migrants with devastating impact; white supremacist influencers profit from racism on social media platforms; artificial intelligence algorithms amplify and digitalize racial discrimination; and some countries are experiencing a vicious backlash against anti-racist policies and practices, he detailed.  Against this backdrop, the international community must resist and reverse such trends resolutely and condemn and eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms.  It must take action to address racism wherever and whenever it arises, including through legal channels, with continued support to civil society in that regard. ALHAJI FANDAY TURAY (Sierra Leone), speaking on behalf of the African Group, reaffirmed the need to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms, prevent and combat racist doctrines and practices, and build an international community free from racial segregation and discrimination.  There is no justification for any doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation, he stressed, voicing his disappointment that manifestations of racial discrimination continue to exist in some parts of the world.  As building a future of justice requires mending an unjust past, all have the responsibility to engage in solidarity, tackle poverty and exclusion, invest in education and rebuild trust and social cohesion.  The world must show stronger political will, take concrete actions, accelerate actions for racial justice and equality, and speak out against hate speech and harassment, both offline and online.  Quality education, the elimination of illiteracy and access to free primary education are necessary for building more inclusive, equitable, stable and harmonious societies, he added. ANNE FRANÇOISE DOSTERT (Luxembourg), speaking on behalf of Western European and other States, said:  “Whenever racism manifests itself, it is our duty to speak out against it, to condemn it and to lead by example.”  The international community must reject and counter all forms of harassment, hate speech, violence and incitement to violence, both online and offline, and stand in solidarity with the victims of racism and empower them, by acknowledging and dismantling societal structures that perpetuate deeply entrenched racism.  Moreover, implementation of the obligations under international law already in place must be strengthened, and the legal response at the national level constantly adapted to face new challenges.  Racism must be addressed through reliable sources of information, knowledge and accountability.  To achieve this aim, a renewed commitment to the full and effective implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination is critical, she said, calling for its universal ratification. She went on to say that, 75 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, racism still prevails for reasons such as a lack of political will, fear and the denial and ignorance of structural discrimination in institutions and society.  To move towards a world free from racial discrimination, the international community must acknowledge its systemic nature, along with the fact that race is a social construct — an ideological attempt to legitimize domination.  Against that backdrop, she said that the High Commissioner for Human Rights has outlined five specific actions urgently needed:  to adopt and implement comprehensive national laws and policies; to establish and strengthen independent national human rights institutions; to collect and publish data disaggregated by race and other factors; to ensure effective participation of racial and ethnic groups in public decision-making; and to consider concrete action to confront past legacies of racial discrimination and deliver reparatory justice. ELAINE CRISTINA PEREIRA GOMES (Brazil) stressed that combating racism is still urgent now as the world continues to witness widespread intolerance and the spread of hate speech, both online and offline.  Spotlighting her country’s efforts to fight racial discrimination and protect the rights of people of African descent, she shared that her Government has recently created a Ministry for Racial Equality, has actively participated in negotiations on the programme of activities to implement the International Decade for People of African Descent and has engaged on a United Nations declaration on the rights of people of African descent.  Brazil has also resumed a joint action plan with the United States to eliminate racial and ethnic discrimination by establishing a cooperation platform and promoting the exchange of good practices in several areas.  She also highlighted several of Brazil’s legislative measures, as well as its engagement with the Human Rights Council and the special procedures on racial discrimination. LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) shared the story of her mother’s cousin, Vincent Smith, who fought for the right to vote for his community.  He lives in West Feliciana parish in rural Louisiana, which, back in 1965, was 68 per cent Black, but not a single Black person was registered to vote.  “That was not a coincidence,” she pointed out, detailing how Vincent Smith worked to build a grass-roots movement training Black people to answer the racist voting rights test — a test where Black people got much harder questions than their white neighbors — despite the terrorizing actions of the Ku Klux Klan.  Highlighting the many unsung heroes in the fight to eliminate racial discrimination, she encouraged all to follow their example.  Noting the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, she said its statement that all human beings are born free and equal is not an opinion; it’s a fact.  “I will be the first to tell you that the United States has not always done right by this commitment,” she said, noting the real and ongoing challenges from the lingering legacy of chattel slavery, Native American displacement and the rise of anti-Asian hate and antisemitism.  “And yet, I am proud” of its progress so far, she said, noting her Government’s commitment to dismantling structural racism as evidenced by its Equity Action Plan and the appointment of a Special Representative for Racial Equity and Justice.  Stressing that the United Nations has obligation to defend against racism and hatred in all of its forms, she voiced her country’s support for the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent. Turning to the uneven sharing of globalization’s benefits, he appealed for the prevention and mitigation of negative effects that aggravate poverty, underdevelopment, vulnerabilities, social exclusion, cultural homogenization and economic disparities.  In that regard, there must be strengthened international cooperation and enhanced partnerships to increase equality in trade opportunities, market access, infrastructure development, technology transfer, economic growth and sustainable development.  Member States should also reinforce protection against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; ensure access to effective and adequate remedies for all; and guarantee the right to seek just and adequate reparation for any damages resulting from discrimination.  Reparations for slavery and colonialism not only provide justice and accountability for historic wrongs, but can also eradicate the scars of racial inequality, subordination and discrimination, he underscored. GABRIELE CACCIA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, said racism hinges upon the distorted belief that one person is superior to another, standing in stark contrast with the fundamental principle that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  Despite the international community’s commitment to eradicate it, he said racism still plagues societies resulting in what Pope Francis called “a crisis in human relationships”, and which can be effectively countered by the promotion of a culture of encounter, solidarity and authentic human fraternity.  Building such a culture is a process that stems from recognizing the unique perspective and invaluable contribution that each person brings to society.  Only the recognition of human dignity can make possible the common and personal growth of everyone and every society, he added.  To stimulate this kind of growth, conditions of equal opportunity for men and women must be ensured and an objective equality between all human beings guaranteed.  Voicing concern about racism and racial prejudice directed against migrants and refugees, he said a change of stance towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, “moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear […] towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world”. She went on to underscore that failure to hold those responsible for police brutality accountable “carries the message of impunity and drives away trust in officials and institutions”.  Moreover, the denial of the rights of migrants and the discriminatory rhetoric towards them only compounds the hate speech against them.  Many groups still face long-standing inequalities stemming from colonialism and the transatlantic trafficking in enslaved peoples, to which the international community has yet to respond adequately through reparation or compensation.  She cited systemic or structural racism as a pervasive factor that impedes the advancement of marginalized populations. He then reaffirmed his support for the Permanent Forum of People of African Descent and the International Decade of Indigenous Languages.  As a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multilingual group and region, the Group remains committed to the International Decade for Latin America and Caribbean People of African Descent and aims to continuing strengthening its regional and international cooperation in a manner consistent with these proclamations’ aims and aspirations.  He also expressed his support for proclaiming a second International Decade for People of African Descent and to the Permanent Forum’s initiatives on improving the safety, quality of life and livelihoods of people of African descent. ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, stressed that racial discrimination is a deeply damaging and pervasive abuse of human rights and human dignity that affects every country.  As one of the most destructive forces dividing societies, it and its legacies of enslavement and colonialism continue to ruin lives, marginalize communities and limit opportunities — preventing billions from achieving their full potential.  While racism is not innate, it can take on a destructive power of its own once learned.  When Governments and other authorities use racism and discrimination for political ends, such official tolerance can fuel tensions and set light to a conflagration of violence and atrocity crimes.  Conversely, initiatives and programmes to eliminate racial discrimination and protect the rights of minorities are investments in crisis prevention and peace, he said. ZACHARIE SERGE RAOUL NYANID (Cameroon), aligning himself with the African Group, noted the persistent existence of racism around the world and expressed regret that Governments continue to politicize fear of foreigners and migrants.  Any doctrine of superiority based on race is scientifically false and morally indefensible, he stressed, adding that racism is learned.  Therefore, it is essential to question school curricula and media narratives, he said, calling on the international community to use education to combat this scourge, including by raising awareness about the transatlantic slave trade as a crime against humanity.  Highlighting the relationship between racism and colonialism, he noted that poverty and social exclusion are closely linked to that phenomenon.  African countries wait for more countries to recognize their role in racism and colonialism, he said, stressing the importance of symbolic acts and apologies.  The reform of the international financial architecture and the right to development are crucial as reparations, he said. Nevertheless, these positive developments should not overshadow the great challenges and pushback that undermine global efforts, she emphasized, adding that, 75 years after the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nationalist populism and supremacist ideologies based on ideas of racial superiority have resurged.  The rise of racist hate speech — including on social media — impede attempts to build societies based on dignity and tolerance, and fuel racist hatred.  “As demonstrated by recent ugly mass killings and massacres of people of African or Asian descent, racist violence persists,” she said. ERIC ADAMS, Mayor of New York City, highlighting the historic promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that no person should be treated differently on the basis of their race or colour, said that 75 years later, too many still struggle against the shackles of racial violence and poverty.  As New York City’s second Black mayor, “I know what it feels like to be rejected,” he said.  Noting that discrimination has no borders, he added that racism makes itself known in education, healthcare, climate change and access to clean water and healthy food.  Since he took office, New York City is leading the way in the fight against racial discrimination, he said, adding that its Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes — the first of its kind in the nation — is seeing success.  This year alone, hate crimes are down across New York City by nearly 70 per cent, he noted. Her bloc stands ready to participate in the second session of the Permanent Forum of People of African Descent this year and looks forward to seeing how it will contribute to the implementation of the Convention and other relevant international human rights instruments on combating racism and racial discrimination, she continued.  Noting that young people and human rights defenders around the world, online and offline, continue to push for progressive action in the fight against racism, she said:  “We owe it to young people and future generations to hear their voices and to embrace diversity in our shared effort to fight all forms of racism and create tolerant and inclusive societies.”  The fight against racism can only be won by addressing the root causes of racial inequality, by protecting the rights of persons belonging to marginalized groups, by strengthening education in schools, by redoubling efforts to counter extremist groups and by taking concrete action to prevent and combat racism, she added. VERENE A. SHEPHERD, Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, described the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a “roadmap for how societies should function and how the rights of all peoples must be respected and upheld”.  She pointed out that numerous States have enacted legislation to prohibit discrimination; anti-racism institutions have been established; and strategies have been put into place to accelerate the integration of ethnic and national minorities.  These measures have tackled prejudices based on race, colour, descent, nationality or ethnic origin, which often have the effect of side-lining populations from the rest of society.  She further drew attention to important institutions which have been set up at the international level, including those established by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. CSABA KŐRÖSI (Hungary), President of the General Assembly, said that, 75 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “the legacies of the racist systems of slavery, apartheid and segregation can still be felt in our communities, our institutions and our minds”.  Like a virus, racism mutates and adapts itself to different times and contexts, he pointed out, adding:  “Racism is like a Cadillac, there is a new model every year.”  In fact, its manifestations and symptoms may change, but the breadth of its harm remains intact.  Old falsehoods have taken on new forms, embedded in modern technologies.  Online, this violence takes on new and covert, but equally toxic forms, he said, warning that algorithms can perpetuate racial stereotypes and biases.  Technology can be used to increase illegal surveillance and reinforce discriminatory practices.  And — left unregulated — social media can supercharge campaigns of extreme violence that can go as far as fomenting genocide, he cautioned. STAN ODUMA SMITH (Bahamas), speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, pointed out that work still needs to be done to address the ubiquity of discrimination in all its forms.  The COVID-19 pandemic, he noted, had a disproportionately negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights of people who were most at risk.  Deficient progress in achieving gender equality and the continued violence against women and girls linked to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance have generated multiple and aggravated forms of gender-based discrimination.  Against this backdrop, the international community must do more to empower all women and girls by eliminating gender stereotypes, especially in the context of innovation, technological change and digital education.  It must also redouble its efforts to promote and adopt gender-responsive approaches to policies, strategies and programmes of action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, he stressed. BJÖRN OLOF SKOOG, Permanent Observer for the European Union, in its capacity as observer, rejecting all forms of racism and discrimination against persons on the basis of race, described the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as a “living instrument that is able to address both new and emerging challenges”.  He encouraged efforts to realize universal adherence to the Convention and its full and effective implementation.  Highlighting important steps that the European Union has taken in recent years to counter racial discrimination, he recalled that, in September 2020, the European Commission adopted its first-ever European Union Anti-racism Action Plan that aims to step up action against racism, calls for better enforcement of European law and elaborates on new proposals to further strengthen the legal framework.  Moreover, he continued, in 2021, the new anti-racism coordinator was appointed whose task it is to bring anti-racism action to the core of European institutions.  In 2021 and 2022, the European Commission organized two summits against racism.  Voicing deep concern over the rise in hate speech and hate crime, he noted that, since 2008, public incitement to violence and hatred on certain grounds — including race, descent or ethnic origin — has been a crime across the European Union.  At the United Nations, the bloc engages constructively in the field of combatting racism and racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, he said. ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador), aligning himself with the Group of Latin America and Caribbean Countries, recalled the Sharpville massacre of 1960.  The United Nations has established a number of instruments and forums to eradicate racism, he noted, highlighting the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban, as a watershed moment.  Its decisions and commitments opened up the possibility of revising histories that were marked by colonialism.  Highlighting the International Decade for People of African Descent, he described it as an umbrella programme to enable Member States to create policies that supported those peoples.  The international community must analyse why the socioeconomic indicators of people of African descent are still so low, he said, calling for renewed commitment to building societies that are free of racism and discrimination. ILZE BRANDS KEHRIS, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, noting that manifestations of racial discrimination take many different forms, detailed several examples of intersecting discrimination.  Indigenous women are disproportionately affected by the loss of lands, territories and resources due to climate change and the development of megaprojects.  Racial discrimination is also structural, she noted, as millions of people of African descent are faced daily with the excessive use of force, racial profiling and other discriminatory practices by law enforcement agencies and other institutions.  Further, intersecting discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin and age surfaced during the COVID-19 pandemic, which also highlighted the digital divide and its negative impact on indigenous children, children of African descent and migrant children. FRANÇOIS JACKMAN (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), voiced his grave concern over the growing incitement of hatred and intolerance, including through the use of new and emerging technology.  He strongly condemned racial profiling and negative stereotyping on any grounds and against any persons.  The perpetuation of structural racism and discrimination through employment barriers, inequity in career advancement on the basis of race of ethnic origin and systemic displacement is a direct contradiction to the Organization’s long-standing commitment to promote social progress and better standards of life.  These acts of discrimination against minorities and those most vulnerable fuel division, isolation, malicious ideologies and in many cases hate speech, violence and hate crimes.  Against this backdrop, the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance is an indispensable condition to advancing sustainable development and ensuring that no one is left behind, he emphasized. TAREK LADEB (Tunisia), aligning himself with the African Group, reiterated his condemnation of all forms of racism and racial discrimination.  His country, he pointed out, abolished slavery in 1846.  It has also ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, remained committed to implementing the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as the International Decade of Persons of African Descent, and strengthened its national human rights institutions.  Its 2018 adoption of a law to eliminate racial discrimination, punish perpetrators and facilitate access to appropriate reparations for all victims notably sends the important message that Tunisia rejects all forms of racial discrimination, he stressed.  He then underscored the need for greater efforts to combat racial discrimination, xenophobia and any related intolerance, especially in cyberspace.  To create a just and equitable world for all, the international community must listen to the voices of those who have experienced human rights violations, empower them and facilitate their access to reparatory justice, effective protections and appropriate recourse. While the international community has made strides towards reducing societal stigma and discrimination against people of African descent, there is still much to be desired and more to be done, he pointed out.  It is by first expressing remorse for the grave atrocities committed and taking practical steps towards reparatory justice that the world can chart the necessary path to healing, dignity restoration and progress for those people.  He reaffirmed his support to a draft United Nations declaration on the promotion and full respect of their human rights and emphasized the need for concrete actions to right wrongs.  Financial resources for the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent must also increase; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination must be upheld by the international community; and anti-discriminatory laws must be enacted and enforced by Member States.  “Our common destiny of sustained peace and prosperity depends upon it,” he stressed. Opening Remarks He then urged Governments to adopt a comprehensive, time-bound national action plan to combat racism and racial discrimination by December.  Such plans should notably include anti-discrimination legislation and policies informed by evidence and data.  All States must ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and implement their commitments and obligations without delay.  States must transform political will into comprehensive action with those experiencing racism and racial discrimination at the centre, he added before calling on businesses to take urgent steps to eliminate racial discrimination in their products, services and workplaces. Note:  A complete summary of today’s General Assembly meeting will be made available upon completion. PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka), stressing that hate speech, nationalist populism and ideologies of racial superiority are debacles to all, called on the Assembly to review its achievements to date.  The Durban Declaration must be seen not as an end, but rather as the beginning of its response to the hopes and aspirations of all those who continue to suffer.  As any discrimination or doctrine of racial superiority is scientifically false, morally reprehensible and socially unjust and destructive, he emphasized that the promotion of racism and xenophobia on digital platforms cannot be tolerated.  Spotlighting his Government’s efforts and commitments, he then echoed former United States President Barack Obama, who said:  “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time — we are the ones we’ve been waiting for, we are the change that we seek,” and appealed to all to speak loud and clear for a world free of racism. Against this backdrop, he called on Governments and technology corporations to regulate virtual platforms and curb hate wherever it appears.  Working out the Global Digital Compact is an unprecedented opportunity to tackle online hate, in a manner that also addresses hate speech against women and girls and various minorities.  Millions of Africans and people of African descent; Asians and people of Asian descent; Indigenous Peoples; minorities; religious communities; and migrants continue to be subjected to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, inequality and exclusion in various areas of their lives.  Most of the harmful narratives are rooted in notions of racial supremacy, and they evoke atavistic fears.  Even worse, they embolden extremists by giving legitimacy to their acts of violence. Against this backdrop, she encouraged States to firmly commit to individual and global efforts to end racial discrimination, racism and xenophobia in practice; reflect on the root causes of the persistent negative stereotypes against national and ethnic groups; build and implement robust anti-racial discrimination legislation; and use education as a tool to trigger changes in mentalities.  Addressing systemic and structural racism must be a priority in domestic strategies and policies to promote the meaningful integration of millions of marginalised people and to build mutual trust among different communities.  In that vein, she called on States to engage in a reparatory justice conversation with those who have suffered — and continue to suffer from — the legacies of colonialism and historic wrongs like the transatlantic trade and chattel enslavement, which remain among the main sources of racial discrimination and exclusion. Statements NOEL MARTIN MATEA (Solomon Islands), speaking on behalf of the Asia-Pacific States, said the goal of full equality — enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights — has not been reached.  Voicing concern over growing hatred, ethnic intolerance and negative stereotypes based on religion, he stressed the importance of promoting a culture of respect.  Moreover, he called on the international community to take concrete action and mobilize full efforts at the national, regional and international levels to address all forms of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance.  He stressed the importance of combating negative stereotypes and promoting harmony for cultural, ethnic and religious diversity.  Reaffirming strong determination of the Asia-Pacific States to fight for the elimination of racial discrimination as a top priority, he called on all countries to take steps to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms.


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