Date of Meeting: June 4, 2020

Meeting Organizer: High Commission on Human Rights

ISJC Staff Present: Major Victoria Edmonds

Reporter: Major Victoria Edmonds

Which SDG does this topic cover? #1,2,3,4,5,6

Type of meeting: Information on Racial Discrimination

Brief summary of presentation of information made

Many of us are fearful about the way the world is heading. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Conflicts and deprivation are forcing families from their homes. Climate change darkens our horizons – and everywhere, it seems, anxieties are deepening.

Humane values are under attack, and we feel overwhelmed unsure what to do or where to turn. Messages of intolerance and hatred prey on our fears. They are spread by people who seek power, deploying twisted logic and false promises, and fabricating outright lies. Their narratives speak to selfishness, separatism – a distorting, narrow view of the world. Little by little, this toxic tide of hatred is rising around us, and the deep and vital principles that safeguard peaceful societies risk being swept away.

We must draw the line – and we can. There is another way. It starts with all of us taking practical steps to reaffirm our common humanity. The UN Human Rights Office upholds values that are the roots of peace and inclusion. We advocate practical solutions to fear and injustice, so governments protect the rights of all their people in line with international law. We monitor their policies and call them out if they fall short.

We stand for greater freedoms. Stronger respect. More compassion. Help break the toxic patterns of a fearful world and embark on a more peaceful, more sustainable future. We don’t have to stand by while the haters drive wedges of hostility between communities – we can build bridges.

Wherever we are, we can make a real difference. In the street, in school, at work, in public transport; in the voting booth, on social media, at home and on the sports field. Wherever there is discrimination, we can step forward to help safeguard someone’s right to live free from fear and abuse.

We can raise our voices for decent values. We can join others to publicly lobby for better leadership, better laws and greater respect for human dignity. The time for this is now. “We the peoples” can take a stand. 21 March was the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. On this day in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid “pass laws”. Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the UN General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. “I fear that the world is reaching another acute moment in battling the demon of hate,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Against the alarming rise of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, the UN Human Rights Office has launched its #FightRacism campaign to foster a global culture of tolerance, equality and anti-discrimination. 21 March was also an opportunity to focus attention on the International Decade for the People of African Descent, who constitute some of the world’s poorest and most marginalized groups. Five years after the Decade’s launch in 2015, the UN General Assembly conducted a critical mid-point review, assessing what countries have accomplished and identifying actions to be taken to improve the human rights situation of Afro-descendants. Studies and findings by international and national bodies demonstrate that people of African descent still have limited access to quality education, health services, housing, and social security

This year, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination focused on the midterm review of the International Decade for People of African Descent undertaken by the Human Rights Council in Geneva as part of its 43rd session. As the Decade approaches its half-way mark in 2020, a review will take stock of the progress made and decide on further necessary actions.

There are around 200 million people identifying themselves as being of African descent living in the Americas. Many millions more live in other parts of the world, outside of the African continent.

Whether as descendants of the victims of the transatlantic slave trade or as more recent migrants, people of African descent constitute some of the poorest and most marginalized groups. They still have limited access to quality education, health services, housing and social security and their degree of political participation is often low. In addition, people of African descent can suffer from multiple forms of discrimination based on age, sex, language, religion, political opinion, social origin, property, disability, birth, or other status. The International Decade for People of African Descent, proclaimed by General Assembly resolution and observed from 2015 to 2024, provides a solid framework to take effective measures to address these issues in the spirit of recognition, justice and development. The midterm review is vital for assessing the effectiveness of the program of activities of the Decade, its implementation and challenges during the first five years and, based on the assessment, generating improvements in the activities and programs planned for the next five years. The final assessment will provide guidance to the various existing mechanisms and all stakeholders, including concrete recommendations for future courses of action to ensure the continued protection and promotion of the rights of people of African descent after the conclusion of the Decade.

The United Nations General Assembly reiterates that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and have the potential to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of their societies. The General Assembly also emphasized that any doctrine of racial superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous and must be rejected, together with theories that attempt to determine the existence of separate human races.

The United Nations has been concerned with this issue since its foundation and the prohibition of racial discrimination is enshrined in all core international human rights instruments. It places obligations on States and tasks them with eradicating discrimination in the public and private spheres. The principle of equality also requires States to adopt special measures to eliminate conditions that cause or help to perpetuate racial discrimination.

In proclaiming this Decade, the international community is recognizing that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected.

Racism, xenophobia and intolerance are problems prevalent in all societies.

But every day, every one of us can stand up against racial prejudice and intolerant attitudes. Be a human rights champion, #fightracism.

Ms. Bachelet expressed hope that they will soon establish a Permanent Forum on people of African descent, and draft a related UN declaration on respecting their human rights: the first step towards a treaty that would be legally binding.

What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

We need to start talking and keep talking about Racial Discrimination and do something about it. Be the voice and give the voice for those who have been keep down for 400 years and longer because of the colour of the skin.

Web links for more information

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Tags: United Nations, Social Justice, SDG1: No Poverty, SDG4: Quality Education, SDG5: Gender Equality, SDG3: Good Health and Well-Being, SDG6: Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG2: Zero Hunger