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UN urges ‘positive action’ on African descendants

The UN launched the International Year for People of African Descent on Human Rights Day, December 10, at the organization’s headquarters in New York.

Ban Ki-moon at the launch of the International Year for People of African Descent © UN Photo/Evan SchneiderSpeaking at the event, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled that people of African descent are among those most affected by racism, steeped in a long and a terrible history of “fundamental wrongs” and the denial of basic rights.

“The international community has affirmed that the transatlantic slave trade was an appalling tragedy not only because of its barbarism but also because of its magnitude, organized nature and negation of the essential humanity of the victims”, he said.

“Even today, Africans and people of African descent continue to suffer the consequences of these acts”, he added, calling for their full integration into social, economic and political life and at all levels of decision-making.

“The international community cannot accept that whole communities are marginalized because of the colour of their skin.”

The General Assembly has proclaimed 2011 the Year of Peoples of African Descent,  citing the need to strengthen national actions and international cooperation to ensure that people of African descent fully enjoy economic, cultural, social, civil and political rights.

The Chair of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, Mirjana Najcevska, said that the International Year should be used to recognize the role of people of African descent in global development and address the issue of justice for current and past acts of discrimination.
“We need to talk about the past and the present racial hierarchy that exists in societies and to encourage countries to become involved in development through positive action that will ensure equality for people of African descent”, she said.

The event was also addressed by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, who said the International Year offers a unique opportunity to redouble efforts to fight racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance that affect Afro-descendants in all parts of the world.

The coalition of civil society organizations formed to promote the Year will hold memorials, seminars, cultural events and other activities to raise awareness about the contribution of African descendants to world heritage while recognising the obstacles that must still be overcome.

14 December 2010