After 20 years of talks and haggling, the UN finally established its Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, but what is astonishing is the identity of the nations that voted against the motion, says Baffour Ankomah.
On Monday, 2 August 2021, the United Nations General Assembly finally established the long-promised Permanent Forum on People of African Descent. It has come after 20 years of deliberations since the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa in September 2001.
The Forum is meant to improve the lives of African-descended people around the world who for centuries have suffered the ills of racism, racial discrimination, and the legacy of enslavement.
According to the UN, the new Forum “will serve as a consultation mechanism for people of African descent and other interested stakeholders as a platform for improving the quality of life and livelihoods of people of African descent and to contribute to elaborating a United Nations declaration on the promotion and full respect of human rights of people of African descent, and that the modalities, format and substantive and procedural aspects of the Permanent Forum will be concluded by Member States and observer States, with further consultations with people of African descent”.
The Forum will also work to identify and analyse best practices, challenges, opportunities, and initiatives to address issues relevant to African-descended people as highlighted in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which was adopted 20 years ago.
But there is no guarantee that the resolution will lead to any major or sea-change in the current awful treatment of Black people the world over. In fact, the behaviour of the West towards the establishment of the Permanent Forum gives no confidence at all to Black people.
The Forum came into being following the adoption of UN Resolution 75/237 on 31 December 2020, calling for a global concrete action for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of, and follow-up to, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
Shocking votes against
The Resolution, passed by the 75th Session of the General Assembly, is so progressive that it beggars belief that any nation would dare vote against it or even abstain from voting. But the ‘Great Europeans’ voted against! If that is not bad enough, an African country also joined in – talk of shooting oneself in the foot (or in this case, shall we say, in the head?). To allow readers to see just how disgraceful it was for any country to do so, let me quote verbatim a large portion of the Resolution’s Preamble below:
1. “Recalling also the suffering of the victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and the need to honour their memory;
2. “Calling upon States to honour the memory of victims of the historical injustices of slavery, the slave trade, including the transatlantic slave trade, colonialism and apartheid;
3. “Alarmed at the global rise in hate speech, constituting incitement to racial discrimination, hostility and violence, stressing the importance of addressing it, and in this regard noting the launch of the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech in June 2019;
4. “Deploring the ongoing and resurgent scourges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in many regions of the world, often targeting migrants and refugees, as well as people of African descent, expressing concern that some political leaders and parties have supported such an environment, and in this context expressing its support for migrants and refugees in the context of the severe discrimination that they may face;
5. “Underlining the need to promote tolerance, inclusion and respect for diversity and the need to seek common ground among and within civilisations in order to address common challenges to humanity that threaten shared values, universal human rights and the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, through cooperation, partnership and inclusion;
6. “Alarmed at the spread in many parts of the world of various racist extremist movements based on ideologies that seek to promote nationalist, right-wing agendas and racial superiority;
7. “Deploring also the recent incidents of excessive use of force and other human rights violations by law enforcement officers against peaceful demonstrators defending the rights of Africans and of people of African descent, and recalling Human Rights Council resolution 43/1 of 19 June 2020, in which the Council strongly condemns the continuing racially discriminatory and violent practices perpetrated by law enforcement agencies against Africans and people of African descent;
8. “Recognising that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance have a deep negative impact on the enjoyment
of human rights, and therefore require a united and comprehensive response from the international community;
9. “Reiterating 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, and 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;
10. “Underlining the intensity, magnitude and organised nature of slavery and the slave trade, including the transatlantic slave trade, and the associated historical injustices, as well as the untold suffering caused by colonialism and apartheid, and that Africans and people of African descent, Asians and people of Asian descent and indigenous peoples continue to be victims, and acknowledging that the ongoing effects must be remedied;
11. “Recalls Human Rights Council resolution 43/1, in which the Council requested the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, with the assistance of relevant special procedure mandate holders, to prepare a report on systemic racism, violations of international human rights law against Africans and people of African descent by law enforcement agencies to contribute to accountability and redress for victims;
12. “Decides to hold a one-day high-level meeting of the General Assembly to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, at the level of Heads of State and Government, on the second day of the general debate of the 76th session, on the theme ‘Reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African descent’ …”
The Resolution therefore called on all countries to embark on a “global concrete action for the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of, and follow-up to, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference, in particular its resolutions 66/144 of 19 December 2011, 67/155 of 20 December 2012 and 74/137 of 18 December 2019, and in this regard underlining the imperative need for their full and effective implementation”.
Perfidy is their middle name
What a brilliant set of resolutions, calling for nothing more than that people of African descent be treated just like anybody else. Dear reader, can you now see just how inappropriate, in fact, shameful it would be for any country to vote against this Resolution? But 14 countries voted against, 106 voted for, 44 abstained, and 29 had no voting rights.
And guess who voted against? The UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, and the US, Australia, Canada, Israel, and the small nations of Czechia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Guyana, Slovenia, and, please don’t laugh, DR Congo! The rest of Europe abstained.
I bet DR Congo did not understand a thing of what was going on! Otherwise, how could Kinshasa, in full control of its faculties, vote against such a resolution? And it was not only them – Nigeria and Angola also abstained. Wonders will never cease.
For the Europeans, we can understand: Perfidy has forever been their middle name. They are the ones who are constantly calling out other countries for human rights abuses. Yet the same Europeans could not lift themselves up from the thrall of hypocrisy to support this resolution. Typical, isn’t it? They talk out of both sides of their mouths and Africa must now know how to live with such people.