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Midterm review of the International Decade for People of African Descent

Voices from the Decade: see us, hear us, count us in

Statement by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

23 July 2021

Dear friends,

It is a pleasure to welcome you to this event to celebrate our human diversity, and the courage and resilience demonstrated by people of African descent over many generations.

Their history and perspectives inspire us in these hard times.

I honour elders and ancestors of African descent for their long struggles for freedom and equality.

And I pay tribute to today's generations and young people of African descent, who have last year peacefully demonstrated to demand racial justice and on social media, called  on their peers to stand up against racism.  

The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people of African descent once again demonstrates the structural discrimination they face.

Today my Office and UNFPA are launching a series of testimonies by young people of African descent. We will hear how they are now forced to grapple with increased stigma; hate speech; heightened poverty; unacceptable work conditions and rising unemployment.

Children and young people are facing severe disruptions to their education. Many are forced to work, to support their family, and may not return to learning when the pandemic is over. Mental health among young people has worsened considerably.

During what remains of the International Decade for people of African descent, it is essential that  all States tackle systemic discrimination.

We need to make a transformative change. We need to stop denying racism, and start dismantling it. We need to end impunity, confront past legacies and deliver redress. We need to listen to the voices of people of African descent – and be worthy of their trust.

This means profound change. It means ensuring that young people of African descent do not fall into poverty, and that they have access to good-quality education, including higher education.

Labour markets need to promote the recruitment of young people of African descent.

We urgently need to dismantle systemic discrimination  in the administration of justice; put an end to racial profiling and unnecessary use of force; and ensure accountability.

We need to promote the empowerment and the participation of  young people in all matters that affect them.

This is how we can build societies that are more resilient to shocks and more fair for all who live in them. This is how we can fulfil the promise of the 2030 Agenda.

Ending this injustice is a legal and moral obligation.  And while States are primarily responsible for ending discrimination, all of us can contribute to this essential task.

Thank you.