Celebrated on August 31, the date was approved during debates on the International Decade for People of African Descent; UN Secretary-General condemns “rooted and systemic” discrimination; member of the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent explains progress in self-recognition and historical redress.
the first celebration
The United Nations marks August 31 as the International Day for People of African Descent and is celebrated for the first time, this year 2022. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres points out that this date is a reminder that millions of people of African descent are still subject to deep-rooted and systemic racism and racial discrimination.
In a message on the celebration, the UN chief points out that this year will see the first Permanent Forum for People of African Descent. For Guterres, its creation is a significant achievement of the International Decade for People of African Descent, which runs until 2024.
decade of action
UN News interviewed one of the Forum members, Colombian pastor Elías Murillo. He spoke with UN News reporter Carla Garcia in Spanish and said that “the fight against racial discrimination against people of African descent is an irreversible and multiracial goal”.
For Murillo, even before the beginning of this century, the invisibility and the systematic and historical denial by the States of the population of African descent have generated great delays that affect this group. Today, people of African descent are recognized as collective subjects of international law and are also progressing in the areas of justice and development.
According to UN data, based on national censuses, in the Americas, excluding the English-speaking Caribbean, there are 200 million people who identify as of African descent, an official figure which, in the opinion of the expert, underestimates the presence of this population.
Murillo believes that self-denial is “the deepest wound slavery has left on the free people of America”. However, he considers important the number of people who recognize themselves as having African descent, because it results from a process of incorporating the nomenclature into national censuses, which did not exist before the year 2000.
In order to promote the recognition of people of African descent as a specific group whose human rights must be promoted and protected, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the period from January 2015 to December 2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent. African.
Progress in the debate
The ten-year plan has as its action plan the achievement of three objectives: recognition, justice and development.
Another of the great achievements of the Decade is to have encouraged debate with the creation of the International Day for People of African Descent and the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent.
Therefore, the UN Secretary-General called on stakeholders, including civil society and Afro-descendant organizations, to participate and promote the work of the Forum.
According to Guterres, the General Assembly has asked the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action to prepare a United Nations declaration on the promotion and full respect for the human rights of people. of African descent. The Forum will contribute to this extremely important work.
For the UN chief, it is essential that we continue to denounce, “loudly and loudly, against any notion of racial superiority and that we work tirelessly to free all societies from the scourge of racism”.
Asked about the progress of the debate on reparations for people of African descent, expert Pastor Elías Murillo believes that this should be done on three fronts: moral, spiritual and material.
On the moral level, he indicates that the Holy See made a unilateral declaration in 2016 committing itself to formulating, in collaboration with spokespersons for the population of African descent, a sort of papal encyclical which recognizes the role of the Catholic Church in the transatlantic world. trade and slavery.
On spiritual reparation, he mentions that the countries are moving forward in the restitution of the objects stolen during the process of enslavement in the colony of African and Afro-descendant countries in different regions. For example, Belgium, France and Germany have created reparation commissions aimed at spiritual and moral reparation, “but they must also take a step forward in the field of material reparation”, he underlines.
Murillo says that some universities in the United States “have recognized that much of their wealth came from or benefited from transatlantic trade and slavery, as Harvard University did a little over 100 years ago. one month when creating a fund of approximately $100 million for reparations for this recognition”.
The World Bank will also advance in the creation of a fund for the development of Afro-descendants in the category of material reparations.
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Image: © PAHO