6 December 2011
Deputy Secretary-General

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Change Takes Political Will, Education, Activism, Deputy Secretary-General Says

As International Year for People of African Descent Draws to Close

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks at the closure of the International Year for People of African Descent in New York on 6 December:

I am pleased to join you today and I bring warm greetings from the Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, who cannot join you due to official travel overseas.

Today we close the International Year for People of African Descent.  But, we should also open a new chapter in our advocacy for their rights.

Our commemorations over the past year had clear goals:  to secure the human rights — all human rights — of all people of African descent; to ensure their participation and integration in society; and to raise awareness about their rich and diverse cultural heritage.

A decade ago, world leaders meeting at the World Conference on Racism adopted the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  Since then, we have seen solid progress.  States have strengthened constitutional protections.  They have adopted legislation and action plans to fight racial discrimination.

In some cases, for the first time, societies recognized the very existence of people of African descent.  This may be difficult to fathom, but just a few years back, these people were all but invisible in the countries where they lived, raised their children and contributed their labour.

The sad fact is that the legacy of slavery still affects millions of people of African descent around the world.  In many cases, even when the old structures that institutionalized racism are gone, the after-effects still cause damage.  Systematic discrimination continues.  People of African descent are too often marginalized and impoverished.  They are targeted by hate speech, violence and even murder.  Women and girls of African descent are particularly vulnerable.

We can look back on the International Year with pride in what has been accomplished.  The General Assembly’s adoption in September of a consensus text against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance was an important step forward.  So was the Third Committee’s more recent approval of a draft resolution on the Durban process.  Now is the time to look ahead and explore what more we can do.

Change takes political will.  It requires education and activism.  And it depends crucially on concerned individuals who join hands in common cause.

Together, we can achieve equality.  And that will strengthen the foundations of democracy and peace for all people.

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For information media • not an official record