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Statements and speeches Multiple Mechanisms

Enhanced ID with Acting High Commissioner and International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement

03 October 2022

Delivered by

Nada Al-Nashif, Acting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights


51st session of the Human Rights Council


Geneva, Palais des Nations, Room XX

Mr. President,

I am pleased to present the first High Commissioner’s report pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 47/21, alongside Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, Chair of the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement, which presents its first report – and with the participation of Collette Flanagan and Jurema Werneck, who bring their professional and lived experiences into this dialogue.

Today, the need for comprehensive evidence-based approaches to address historic injustices and their contemporary manifestations is clearer than ever if we are to achieve transformative change.

Over the past year, we have seen various measures undertaken by States and others to address manifestations of systemic racism against Africans and people of African descent. Examples include, in British Columbia, Canada, a new system to collect, use and analyse disaggregated data to identify and eliminate systemic racism in government programmes and services that was introduced. Sweden initiated an evaluation of the use of ethnic profiling by police.

We have seen measures to confront legacies of enslavement, the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans and colonialism.  In Colombia, for example, the Commission for the Clarification of Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition held recognition forums and hearings, and carried out coexistence initiatives to raise awareness of the true experiences of Afro-Colombians. Some business enterprises, universities and religious establishments are assessing their links to enslavement and colonialism. For example, Georgetown University in the United States launched a Reconciliation Fund that awards funds annually to community-based projects that serve Descendant communities in consultation with them.

Such responses demonstrate that concrete steps to address racial discrimination can indeed be initiated despite complex national contexts, setbacks arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and other major global challenges.

However, unless these are part of comprehensive, multi-pronged approaches, they remain insufficient to dismantle the entrenched structural, institutional and societal racism that has existed for centuries.

I am deeply concerned that Africans and people of African descent continue to face disproportionate and discriminatory outcomes in many countries - and that we continue to receive regular reports of deaths and injuries during or following encounters with law enforcement officials.

The real measure for success in advancing racial justice and equality must be positive change in the lived experiences of Africans and people of African descent. Comprehensive official and other data disaggregated notably by race or ethnic origin is crucial to understanding the scale and impact of these realities. However, such data remains scarce. This is a significant impediment to adequately identifying and tackling the tangible manifestations of systemic racism.

Robust measures to ensure accountability and redress for all victims and their families are also critical. There has been some progress in some of the seven illustrative cases described in-depth in the 2021 report (A/HRC/ 47/53 and A/HRC/47/CRP.1). I thank all States concerned for their engagement on these cases. Their contributions are reflected in the report and posted on our website.

Recently, there have been some further developments. In the United States, all four officers involved in the death of George Floyd have now been sentenced in federal court, and one has been sentenced further to a guilty plea to state charges. Additionally, federal charges were brought against officers in relation to acts allegedly resulting in the death of Breonna Taylor.

The seven emblematic cases exemplify challenges that many families of African descent face when seeking accountability and redress for the death of their relatives during or after interactions with law enforcement. Unfortunately, not a single one of the illustrative cases has yet been brought to a full conclusion, with those families still seeking truth, justice and guarantees of non-repetition. We hope that more progress in resolving these cases can be achieved and thus reflected in our next report.

Over the past year, our Office has advocated and worked with States and other actors to advance all four points of the Agenda towards transformative change for racial justice and equality. We maintained our approach of centering the voices of people of African descent and their lived experiences.  I thank all those who submitted information and those who participated in consultations, in particular families of victims. We are further strengthening our capacity on the ground through the deployment of five regional advisors on combatting racial discrimination and the protection of minorities.

We can only succeed in building back better towards a more resilient future of equality and non-discrimination if States and all relevant actors stand united and accelerate action in the fight against systemic racism.

Our Office is committed to continue galvanizing collective action towards this end. I call on all States, in turn, to demonstrate greater political commitment by stepping up implementation of all aspects of the Agenda towards Transformative Change.

Thank you.