MESSAGE FROM THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS,
August 31, 2021
On this first International Day for People of African Descent, we celebrate their extraordinary cultural richness and diversity and pay tribute to the enormous contribution they have made to the development of our societies throughout history.
We also remember those of African descent who came before us, heroes of resistance to slavery and violations that continued with impunity for centuries.
We commemorate traditional doctors, guardians of ancestral knowledge and religions of African origin; leaders, the foundation of contemporary organisational processes; human rights defenders; and all those who, from their position, fight daily for dignity and equality.
It was on a day like today, August 31, in 1920, that the first declaration of the rights of people of African descent was adopted in New York. Commemorating this historic event, last year the General Assembly, under the initiative of Costa Rica, declared this as the International Day for People of African Descent. International day celebrations invite governments, civil society, the public and private sectors, schools and universities, and citizens of the world to reflect on values that unite humanity and to take concrete actions to advance them.
Today, as part of a single human family, we recognise the urgency of eradicating once and for all the stigmas and prejudices based on unfounded ideas of racial superiority that continue to cause suffering to millions of people of African descent around the world.
In Latin America, people of African descent are twice as likely to live in chronic poverty. Women of African descent have higher levels of poverty and unemployment than the rest of the population. And Afro-descendants continue to be under-represented in decision-making positions in both the private and public sectors.
Today, we raise our voices against systemic racism, against unpunished human rights violations, including killings, committed by law enforcement. We demand justice. We oppose colonial structures of power and wealth distribution that are even more intolerable and unsustainable in these times of health, economic and ecological crises.
Today, and every day of our lives, we must promote equality and solidarity among all human beings without distinction. We must transform cultures of privilege and denial into cultures of human rights, democracy, peace and equality. We must stand against racism.