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People of African descent

International Decade of People of African Descent: recognition, justice and development

18 December 2014


Human rights violations are still part of daily reality for many people of African descent, said UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Flavia Pansieri.

“Afro-descendants are still amongst the poorest communities and the targets of marginalization and exclusion,” she said.

Pansieri made her statement at the launch event for the International Decade for People of African Descent (2014-2024) held in Geneva. The event featured the screening of a documentary called “Cartola,” on the life of Afro-Brazilian musician of the same name. The event was also sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Djibouti, Jamaica and the USA, along with the African Union and the UN Office in Geneva.

Last December, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming the Decade, with the theme “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development.”  The UN Human Rights Office has been appointed as coordinator for the decade and will carry out awareness raising campaigns.
Whether as descendants of the victims of the transatlantic slave trade or as more recent migrants, studies and findings by international and national bodies demonstrate that people of African descent still have limited access to quality education, health services, housing and social security, Pansieri said.

In many cases, their situation remains largely invisible, and insufficient recognition and respect has been given to the efforts of people of African descent to seek redress for their present condition. They all too often experience discrimination in their access to justice, and face alarmingly high rates of police violence, together with racial profiling, she said.

Pansieri said the Decade is recognition by the international community that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected.

“The road to a world free from racism, prejudice and stigma is rocky,” Pansieri said. “Combatting racial discrimination is a long-term effort. It requires commitment and persistence. In the words of Maya Angelou, who reminds us that the future is built on the past, ‘History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.’”

18 December 2014