General Assembly Adopts without Vote Resolution on International Decade for People of African Descent with Theme, ‘Recognition, Justice and Development’
55th Meeting (AM)
Recognizing the devastating impact of racism on people of African descent, the General Assembly today adopted, without a vote, a draft resolution on the programme of activities to implement the newly launched International Decade for People of African Descent, thus providing focus and synergy needed to address the matter globally.
Sam Kutesa (Uganda), President of the General Assembly, introducing the draft text, said that after decades of slavery, one could only be humbled by how far people of African descent had come. However, discrimination persisted. Many of African descent had limited access to good quality education, employment, housing, healthcare, fair justice systems, and safe living environments. By adopting “recognition, justice and development” as the resolution’s theme, the Assembly could take a bold step towards ensuring the respect, protection and human rights for those people, he said.
The representative of Brazil, noting that his country had the largest population of people of African descent outside of Africa, pointed out that those Brazilians accounted for over a hundred million people in his country. Promoting racial equality translated into rescuing half the national population from the consequences of centuries of slavery to which they had been subjected.
The General Assembly had before it a draft resolution submitted by the President of the General Assembly entitled “Programme of activities for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent” (document A/69/L.3), as well as a report by the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) on programme budget implications for that text (document A/69/563). By the terms of the text, the General Assembly would adopt the programme of activities for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent annexed to the resolution, and officially launch the International Decade for People of African Descent, among other measures.
Action on Draft Resolution
SAM KUTESA (Uganda), President of the General Assembly, stating that the Organization was about to embark on an historic moment, introduced the draft resolution on the Programme of activities for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent (document A/69/L.3). Emerging from slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, one could not but be humbled about how far people of African descent had come.
“But we need to go much further”, he said, adding that discrimination against people of African descent continued, manifested in limited access to good quality education, employment, housing and healthcare. They were frequently the most marginalized members of society, often inhabiting the poorest districts, with the most precarious infrastructure. Vulnerable to crime and violence, they often faced discrimination in access to justice, as well.
In 2001, he continued, the Assembly had adopted the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action at the World Conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. By adopting the theme of the International Decade, “Recognition, Justice, and Development”, the international community was providing an opportunity to have a global conversation about the burdens and accomplishments of people of African descent. Those contributions were irrefutable. The International Decade would raise awareness and ensure the respect, protection and human rights of people of African descent. By adopting the draft resolution, the Assembly would take a bold step towards that objective.
The General Assembly adopted the resolution without a vote.
In explanation of position after the action, the representative of Italy, speaking for the European Union, said the Union was a firm believer in the international fight against racism, xenophobia and intolerance. It was only through ownership and engagement that objectives could be achieved on the local, national, and international levels. However, she voiced concern regarding the budgeting of Programme activities, requesting that such implementation be done carefully.
The representative of Israel said he recognized that the resolution contained important elements. However, he disassociated Israel from certain references in several paragraphs of the resolution. Ten years ago, the majority of countries remained silent while the Durban Conference became a racist expression against the State of Israel. The Jewish people had fought racism throughout their history.
The representative of Canada said that the Durban Conference had degenerated into a politicized forum that did not combat racism. The Durban process remained politicized and unable to distance itself from its past. He said that although he disapproved of the reference to that process, his Government would continue to work in practical ways with Member States in addressing racism and in recognizing and promoting the rights of people of African descent.
GUILHERME DE AGUIAR PATRIOTA (Brazil), noting that his country had the largest population of people of African descent outside of Africa, pointed out that those Brazilians accounted for over a hundred million people in his country. Promoting racial equality translated into rescuing half the national population from the consequences of the centuries of slavery to which they had been subjected. His Government had implemented affirmative programmes and national policies such as cash transfers and minimum wage legislation, which had contributed to the reduction of inequalities among different racial groups. The 2001 Durban Conference and its review conferences was a landmark in the implementation of national and international laws so as to forbid racism, xenophobia, and related intolerance.