Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the General Assembly on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in New York today:
I am pleased to join you for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This Day is both a day of recognition and an urgent call to action.
Racism continues to poison institutions, social structures and everyday life in every society. It continues to be a driver of persistent inequality. And it continues to deny people their fundamental human rights. It destabilizes societies, undermines democracies, erodes the legitimacy of Governments and stymies an inclusive and sustainable recovery from COVID-19.
Racism is also a catalyst of coarsening public discourse that normalizes hate, denies dignity and spurs violence. The linkages between racism and gender inequality are unmistakable. We see some of the worst impacts in the overlaps and intersections of discrimination suffered by women of colour and minority groups.
No country is immune from intolerance, nor free of hate. Africans and people of African descent, Asians and people of Asian descent, minority communities, indigenous peoples, migrants, refugees and so many others — all continue to confront stigmatization, scapegoating, discrimination and violence.
This year’s theme — “Voices for Action against Racism” — calls on us to listen closely, to speak out loudly and act decisively. We all have a responsibility to engage in solidarity with movements for equality and human rights everywhere. And we must extend solidarity to everyone fleeing conflict or persecution without any discrimination based on race, religion or ethnicity.
We must speak out against hate speech — offline and online. We must defend civic space by protecting free expression and assembly — the bedrock of pluralist, peaceful and inclusive societies. We need a renewed social contract, based on rights and opportunities for all, to tackle poverty and exclusion, invest in education and rebuild trust and social cohesion. We must listen to those experiencing injustice and ensure their concerns and demands are at the centre of efforts to dismantle discriminatory structures.
Reparatory justice is also crucial to realize racial equality and atone for the enduring legacy of centuries of enslavement and colonialism. Historical injustices manifest themselves in poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization and social instability for entire communities and countries. It is time to recognize and repair longstanding wrongs.
Building a future of justice requires mending an unjust past. In line with international human rights obligations and commitments, Member States must show stronger political will to accelerate action for racial justice and equality.
We have the blueprints for determined action: the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and its follow-up processes; the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; and the Four-Point Agenda towards Transformative Change for Racial Justice and Equality.
The Permanent Forum of People of African Descent created by the General Assembly is another example of meaningful progress towards a systemic response to systemic racism. I call on every Member State to take concrete actions — including through policy measures, legislation and more granular data collection — in support of these efforts at the national and global level.
We at the United Nations have also launched our own internal Strategic Action Plan on Addressing Racism, which outlines concrete actions to tackle racism in the workplace through accountability. I will soon be appointing a special adviser and establish a steering group to oversee implementation of this Plan.
Together, we are committed to making sure people of every race, ethnicity, colour, gender, religion, creed and sexual orientation enjoy a sense of belonging and safety and have an equal opportunity to contribute to the success of our United Nations.
Realizing the vision of a world free of racism and racial discrimination demands action every day, at every level, in every society. Today and every day, let us unite around our common humanity and speak as one for equality, respect, justice and dignity for all. Thank you.