Drawing inspiration from the heroic struggle of the people of South Africa against the institutionalized system of apartheid, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution establishing a Permanent Forum of People of African Descent on Monday, i.e 2nd August 2021, to address the challenges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance in the society. The creation of the forum came during the International Decade for People of African Descent, which was established and proclaimed by the General Assembly from 1st January 2015 to 31st December 2024, with the theme “People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice, and Development.”
A Global call for fight against racism
Despite the concerted efforts of the international communities, racism, and racial discrimination continues to cause human suffering. Hence, the resolution came into force by consensus of the 193-member world body. The resolution is considered as a platform for improving the safety and quality of life and livelihoods of people of African descent and subsequently accepting their full and equal participation in all aspects of society. The assembly stated, “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.”
Further, the assembly mentioned that any doctrine of any kind of racial superiority is false, morally condemnable, socially unjust, and dangerous. “It must be rejected, together with theories that attempt to determine the existence of separate human races,” the assembly stated. A global fight against racism is called upon in the assembly and objected to as a matter of priority for the international community.
The forum will consist of 10 members, including five members elected by the General Assembly from all regions and the other five appointed by the Human Rights Council following consultations with regional groups and organizations of people of African descent.
The forum’s first session is set to take place in the year 2022. Annual reports to the assembly will be presented to the council on the forum’s activities, and an evaluation of its operation by the General Assembly after four sessions, based on an evaluation by the Human Rights Council.
Recognizing the invaluable contributions
In combating racism, the resolution is considered as a platform that presents a unique opportunity to consider the invaluable contributions of indigenous peoples to political, economic, social, cultural, and spiritual development throughout the world. A series of mandates has been given in the Permanent Forum of People of African Descent which includes ensuring the full political, economic and social inclusion of people of African descent. The mandate also provides expert advice and recommendations on addressing racism to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, the General Assembly’s main committees, and UN agencies.
UN World Conference Against Racism
The creation of the new body took place ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism, which was held in Durban, South Africa. The conference was dominated by clashes over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery. Creating a controversy, the US and Israel walked out during the meeting over a draft resolution that indicated Israel out for criticism and likened Zionism to racism. That language was dropped in the final documents, and this called for the eradication of the scourges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance.