Equinet marks the International Decade for People of African Descent

As part of the awareness raising campaign for the International Decade, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is organizing five regional meetings. Such meetings focus on trends, priorities and challenges at the national and regional levels to effectively implement the Decade’s Programme of Activities. The meetings are also an occasion to exchange good practices.

This second regional meeting on 23-24 November in Geneva provided an opportunity to reflect on ways and means that governments from Europe, Central Asia and North America in partnership with equality bodies, national human rights institutions, civil society, development agencies and regional organizations, may pursue to integrate the provisions of the Programmes of Activities in their policies, programmes and strategies tailored for people of African descent.

There are around 200 million people identifying themselves as being of African descent live 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, they constitute some of the poorest and most marginalized groups. 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.

In many cases, their situation remains largely invisible, and sufficient recognition and respect have not always been given to the efforts of people of African descent to seek redress for their present condition. They all too often experience discrimination in their access to justice, and face alarmingly high rates of police violence, together with racial profiling. Furthermore, their degree of political participation is often low, both in voting and in occupying political positions. In addition, people of African descent can suffer from multiple, aggravated or intersecting forms of discrimination based on other related grounds, such as age, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, social origin, property, disability, birth, or other status.

Equality bodies across Europe have recorded a significant rise in racial discrimination, in hate speech, and in hate crime related to racial or ethnic origin. Negative media coverage and political speech occur more and more. There is an increase in state action against refugees and migrants. The language of the mass media and hate speech on social networks are highlighted. Some of these negative developments were triggered by the arrival of refugees and migrants which was picked up by hate mongers in the media and online, but the effects go beyond recent refugees and migrants,” says Equinet Chair Tena Šimonović Einwalter at the Regional Meeting for Europe, Central Asia and North America organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to mark the international decade. “We are seeing increasing hostility and discrimination toward racial and ethnic minorities in general. Reports from equality bodies show institutional discrimination is common in Europe. We are not speaking about isolated incidents of discrimination. The political, legal and societal systems in general have a bias against racial and ethnic minorities, including people of African descent.

The International Decade for People of African Descent, proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 68/237 and to be observed from 2015 to 2024, provides a solid framework for the United Nations, Member States, civil society and all other relevant actors to join together with people of African descent and take effective measures for the implementation of the programme of activities in the spirit of recognition, justice and development and ties in meaningfully with the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. It is also a unique opportunity to build on the International Year for People of African Descent, which was observed by the international community in 2011, and to further underline the important contribution made by people of African descent to our societies and to propose concrete measures to promote their full inclusion and to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

We know the vicious circle created by poverty, and that people of African descent are at greater risk of poverty due to both historical and contemporary forms of discrimination. We also know they are subject to intersectional forms of discrimination, both women as well as younger men in some cases,” the Equinet Chair reminds. “We need better data, we need positive action measures, and we need to tackle underreporting. We need to educate against stereotypes and teach values. We also need to train professionals, and not just legal professionals, but police officers, nurses, social workers, civil servant: everyone working with persons of African descent. We need strategic litigations and ways to tackle the structural problems. We need to strengthen the entire equality infrastructure, and we need to ensure better implementation of existing legislation. And we need partnerships, with special emphasis on cooperating with persons of African descent.

Further Information

  • For more information on the Regional Meetings of the International Decade for People of African Descent, please see their website.

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