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Video Message for the Virtual consultation with Member States and civil society on the modalities of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent

Statement by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet

Friday, 9 April 2021

President of the General Assembly,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank the President of the General Assembly and the Permanent Representatives of Chad and Costa Rica to the United Nations in New York, for their leadership in the intergovernmental process to define the modalities, format, and the substantive and procedural aspects of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent.

This is an important moment in history to advance the rights of people of African Descent. The United Nations is playing a leading and catalytic role to advocate for transformative change. The new Form can serve as a platform to generate ideas about how to reverse the injustices that lasted for decades.

The rights of people of African Descent are human rights problems and the solutions must be human rights oriented. As the Coordinator of the International Decade for People of African Descent, my Office has been a strong supporter of the Forum since it was first envisioned in 2014.    In the subsequent years, we supported two large consultations with Member States, civil society and other stakeholders and it is encouraging that we are at the final stages towards the formal operationalisation of the Permanent Forum.

The successive resolutions from the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council stipulating the forum as a consultation mechanism provide an important framework for this consultation. Both the Programme of Activities of the International Decade and the GA resolution 73/262 have particularly emphasized the important role the Permanent Forum is expected to play in contributing to elaborating a United Nations declaration on the promotion and full respect of human rights of people of African descent.

The discriminatory impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minorities, including people of African descent, and the global anti-racism movement have made it clear: we must strengthen the human rights response to combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The Permanent Forum is a critical component in the United Nations anti-racism architecture. It will be joining other human rights mechanisms, including the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, the Special Rapporteur on Racism and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The Forum will be joining other such mechanisms in the UN human rights system such as the other forums on Business and Human Rights, the Forum on Minority Issues and on Rule of Law and Democracy. These have all proven to be vibrant mechanisms that build on the expertise of the UN human rights systems and are proudly supported by my Office.

One lesson we learnt from all these fora, is the essential role of broad civil society participation and concerned communities, in this case, the people of African Descent themselves. For that purpose, and in line with the 2019 consultations, it may benefit from being rotated between Geneva and New York.

I am also pleased the deliberations today, might lead to the formal operationalisation of the Permanent Forum in time for the mid-term review of the International Decade for People of African Descent, which would be an important milestone.

I call upon all Member States to constructively engage in these processes, as our collective and firm commitment to combat and prevent racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance faced by people of African descent.

You can count on my Office’s support for your deliberations and we stand ready to support in any way we can.

Thank you.