UN discussion on racism, racial discrimination & xenophobia ends in New York
A two-day discussion on the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as the right of peoples to self-determination concluded Tuesday at the 68th General Assembly Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee also known as the Third Committee 40th Meeting. .
The Committee was presented with several reports including “Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” and the “Report of the Secretary-General on how to make the International Decade for People of African Descent effective.”
Mutuma Ruteere, the UN Special Rapporteur said “Racial or ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by poverty, with the lack of education, adequate housing and health care transmitting poverty from generation to generation and perpetuates racial prejudices and stereotypes.”
Mr. Ruteere, who hails from Kenya explicitly, stated, “Governments have the obligation to prevent marginalization, to ensure protection and to guarantee the enjoyment of human rights for all, including the right to education, the right to adequate housing, the right to health and the right to food and safe water.”
He accentuated some of the good practices and initiatives taken to prevent poverty and discrimination including disaggregated data, programs aimed at increasing educational opportunities, laws which protect disadvantaged groups in the labor market, poverty alleviation initiatives, collection of relevant data, and special measures aimed at enhancing equality between all groups. (Photo: Professor Verlene Shepherd – in red royal traditional African dress – Chair of The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent)
Jamaican born Professor Verene A. Shepherd, Chairperson of the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (WGPAD) told the Committee that “People of African descent have for centuries been victims of racism, racial discrimination, enslavement and denial of their rights.”
Professor Shepherd expressed her support for designating the period 2014 to 2023 as the International Decade for People of African Descent during her presentation of WGPAD’s report for the Committee’s consideration and called for a partnership with human rights defenders.
She reminded the Committee that it was the combined efforts of Africans, Americans and Europeans “of conscience who understood the immorality of slavery and the slave trade that rid the world of these inhumane systems in the 19th Century.”
Professor Shepherd went on to make the following observations.
“It is no secret that people of African descent have for centuries been victims of racism, racial discrimination and enslavement and of the denial by history of many of their rights. Indeed, the coincidence of the 10th anniversary of the DDPA with the International Year for People of African Descent offered a unique opportunity to redouble our efforts to promote the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance that affect African people and their descendants in all regions of the globe.”
“Despite the efforts undertaken by the international community, governments and local authorities, the scourge of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance continues to result in violations of human rights, suffering, disadvantage and violence.”
“Even today, what Edward Linenthal calls the “indigestible fishbone of slavery” continues to stick in our throats because of the presence of its legacies over 500 years on. The impact of slavery and colonialism is nowhere more obvious than in the Americas and in the African continent itself.”
“It is the same partnership of human rights defenders that African Diaspora people are hoping for in this Century, as we seek support for the Decade for People of African Descent, and try to figure out how to kick racism off-side; as we try to figure out how to recover black pride and dignity and be treated with respect.”
“As we try to figure out how to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery and free our minds, as Marcus Garvey followed by Bob Marley directed us to do. As we make a greater effort to produce indigenous knowledge systems and educate our people to understand their past, as we try to figure out how to forward in this generation more triumphantly.”
“Recognition, of people of African descent as a distinct group is a key initial step to increase their visibility and respect for their culture, identity, history and heritage. Justice is fundamental for addressing the historical and continued violations of rights faced by people of African descent, including their equal access to justice and equal protection of the law,” Professor Shepherd declared.
Speakers representing Antigua, South Africa, Nigeria, China, Russian Federation, Israel, Palestine, Colombia, Libya, Iceland, Norway, European Union, Malaysia, Senegal, Brazil, Indonesia, Belarus, Pakistan, Egypt, Ecuador, Cuba, Sudan, Iran, Qatar, India, Cameroon, Algeria, Botswana, Armenia and Nicaragua, as well as the International Organization for Migration among other Member States also participated in the debate.
By Dennis Kabatto
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