UN creates permanent body to address challenges of racism

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution Monday establishing a Permanent Forum of People of African Descent to provide expert advice on addressing the challenges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance.

The resolution adopted by consensus by the 193-member world body also calls for the forum to serve as “a platform for improving the safety and quality of life and livelihoods of people of African descent” and their full inclusion in the societies where they live.

The forum’s establishment comes during the International Decade for People of African Descent, established by the General Assembly, which began on Jan. 1, 2015, and ends on Dec. 31, 2024. It is focusing on the themes of recognition, justice and development.

The new body’s creation comes ahead of the 20th anniversary of the controversial September 2001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which was dominated by clashes over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery. The U.S. and Israel walked out during the meeting over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism to racism.

That language was dropped in the final documents, which condemned and called for the eradication of the scourges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance. The documents also expressed deep regret at the human suffering caused by slavery, and acknowledged that slavery and the slave trade are crimes against humanity and should always have been so.

The resolution approved Monday by the General Assembly says that despite efforts to combat racism, instances and various forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance remain widespread and should be condemned.

The assembly said that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and have the potential to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of their societies.”

“Any doctrine of racial superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous and must be rejected, together with theories that attempt to determine the existence of separate human races,” it said.

The assembly called the global fight against racism “a matter of priority for the international community.”

The Permanent Forum of People of African Descent was given a series of mandates. They include helping to ensure “the full political, economic and social inclusion of people of African descent,” and providing expert advice and recommendations on addressing racism to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, the General Assembly’s main committees and U.N. agencies.

The resolution said the forum will consist of 10 members — five elected by the General Assembly from all regions and five appointed by the Human Rights Council following consultations with regional groups and organizations of people of African descent.

It calls for the forum’s first session to take place in 2022. It also calls for annual reports to the assembly and the council on the forum’s activities, and an evaluation of its operation by the General Assembly after four sessions, based on an evaluation by the Human Rights Council.

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