“The United Nations must step up its efforts to end systemic racism against people of African descent”

Demonstration, June 16, 2020, after the death of George Floyd, in New York. The city is home to the headquarters of the United Nations.

Grandstand. After the final weeks of protests following the May 25 murder of George Floyd while in the hands of the Minneapolis, United States police, we have all been outraged, as original senior leaders African to the United Nations (UN), through the injustice of racism which is still omnipresent in the host country of the United Nations and throughout the world. The deep trauma and intergenerational suffering that has resulted from racial injustice over the centuries, especially against people of African descent, cannot be overemphasized. But the mere condemnation of expressions and acts of racism is not enough. We have to go beyond and do more.

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The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, declared that “We must raise our voices against all expressions of racism and cases of racist behavior”. After the murder of Mr. Floyd, the cry “Black Lives Matter” that rings out in the United States and around the world is more than a slogan. The life of blacks, in addition to counting, is essential to the realization of our common human dignity. The time has come to move from words to action. We owe it to George Floyd and all victims of racial discrimination and police brutality to dismantle racist institutions. As leaders in a multilateral system, we believe it is incumbent on us to speak on behalf of those whose voices have been silenced and to advocate for effective responses that can combat systemic racism, a global scourge has been perpetuated over the centuries.

Inextricable set of problems

The shocking murder of George Floyd is rooted in a larger and inextricable set of problems that will not go away if we ignore them. It is time for the United Nations to step up and act decisively to end systemic racism against people of African descent and other minority groups. “By developing and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinctions of race, sex, language or religion”, as stipulated in Article 1 of the Charter of the United Nations. Indeed, the foundation of the United Nations is the belief that all human beings are equal and have the right to live without fear of persecution.

It was at the height of the civil rights movement in the United States and during the period of the emergence of independent post-colonial African nations which joined the United Nations that the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CIEDR) came into force in 1969. It was a pivotal period in history. One of the achievements of which the Organization is most proud is the collapse of apartheid in South Africa, attributable in part to the United Nations. The human rights and dignity of blacks in Africa as well as across the African diaspora has sounded as a strong signal for future generations that the United Nations will not ignore racial discrimination and will not tolerate it. injustice and bigotry served by unjust laws.

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Building on this new era, the United Nations must use its influence to remind us once again of the unfinished mission of eradicating racism, and to urge the community of nations to remove the stains of racism on humanity. We welcome the Secretary-General’s initiatives to strengthen the global discourse that addresses systemic racism at all levels and its consequences wherever it exists, including within the United Nations.

If we want to be good leaders, we have to do it by example. Initiating and promoting real change will require an honest assessment of how we apply the Charter of the United Nations within our institution. Our expression of solidarity is a good reflection of our responsibilities and obligations as international civil servants to speak out and oppose oppression. As leaders, we share the fundamental beliefs and the values ​​and principles enshrined in the Charter which do not allow us to remain silent. We are committed to using our expertise, leadership and respective mandates to address the root causes and promote the structural changes that must be implemented if we are to end racism.

“All free”

Nearly five hundred years after the start of the revolting transatlantic African slave trade, we have reached a critical point in the arc of the moral universe, as we approach the end of the International Decade for People of Ancestry. African in 2024, in just four years. Let’s use our collective voice to respond to the aspirations of our communities so that the United Nations can exercise its moral power as an institution to effect global change. Let us lend our voice to the realization of the transformative vision specific to Africa as contained in its Agenda 2063, a vision which is in line with the World 2030 Agenda.

Africa is the cradle of humanity and the forerunner of human civilizations. As a continent, it must play a leading role if the world is to achieve sustainable development and peace. This was the dream of the founders of the United Nations, it was also the firm conviction of eminent African leaders or intellectuals such as the Ghanaian Kwame Nkrumah and the Senegalese Cheikh Anta Diop.

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Let’s never forget the words of South African President Nelson Mandela: “To deny people their human rights is to question their very humanity. “ Let us always keep in mind the exhortation of the American Fannie Lou Hamer, leader of civil rights: “No one is free until we are all free”, which was picked up by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “An injustice, wherever it occurs, is a threat to justice everywhere else. “ Years later, their words were reflected in the diversity of the rainbow nation, South Africa, and spoken by the man of peace, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in his statement: “The liberation of blacks is an essential condition for the liberation of whites:” No one will be free until we are all free. “

All the signatories listed below are senior United Nations officials who hold the rank of Deputy Secretary General. They signed this opinion on a personal basis: Tedros ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS (Ethiopia), Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO); Mahamat Saleh ANNADIF (Chad), Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (Minusma); Zainab BANGURA (Sierra Leone), Director General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi; Winnie BYANYIMA (Uganda), Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV / AIDS (UNAIDS); Mohamed Ibn CHAMBAS (Ghana), Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel; Adama DIENG (Senegal), Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the prevention of genocide; Bience GAWANAS (Namibia), Special Advisor to the UN Secretary General for Africa; François Lounceny FALL (Guinea), Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa; Gilbert HOUNGBO (Togo), President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); Bishar A. HUSSEIN (Kenya), Director General of the Universal Postal Union (UPU); Natalia KANEM (Panama), executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (Fnuap); Mukhisa KITUYI (Kenya), Secretary General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); Jeremiah Nyamane MAMABOLO (South Africa), Joint Special Representative and Head of the African Union and United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur; Phumzile MLAMBO-NGCUKA (South Africa), Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women); Mankeur NDIAYE (Senegal), Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (Minusca); Perfect ONANGA-ANYANGA (Gabon), Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for the Horn of Africa; Moussa D. OUMAROU (Niger), Deputy Director General for Field Operations and Partnerships of the International Labor Organization (ILO); Pramila PATTEN (Mauritius), Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on the issue of sexual violence in times of conflict; Vera SONGWE (Cameroon), executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; Hanna TETTEH (Ghana), Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union; Ibrahim THIAW (Mauritania), executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification; Leila ZERROUGUI (Algeria), Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco).

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