– On 9 May 2019, the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, the World Against Racism Network and the Global Coalition for the International Decade for People of African Descent organized an Emergency Assembly on the Rise of Global Racism. It was held at the United Nations Office in Geneva in the presence of more than 150 representatives of Permanent Missions, UN staff, civil society and academics.
The aim of this Assembly was to invite the international community to take a joint stand against racism, racial discrimination and intolerance and to address the fundamental structural root causes of these scourges through a robust and universal implementation of the DDPA.
It served as a timely opportunity to give a new impetus to ongoing efforts to counter the rise of extremism and xenophobia in all its forms and manifestations, which is taking openly aggressive forms expressed through Islamophobia, Afrophobia, anti-Arabism and anti-Semitism. The recent spate of terrorist attacks of 15 March 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand and of 21 April 2019 in Colombo, Sri Lanka as well as in California on 27 April 2019 are a reminder that the rise of hate and supremacist ideologies erupts into blind violence unexpectedly.
The Emergency Assembly was likewise held strategically in between two important events in Geneva that brought international human rights experts to the UN on the issue of racism.
In its 6-9 May session the Group of Independent Eminent Experts – composed of HE Hanna Suchocka Dr Edna Roland, Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari and Dr. Saied A. Ashshowwaf – discussed the continued relevance of the DDPA, commemorating its 20th anniversary and developing a multiyear outreach programme for DDPA information and public mobilisation.
In order to consult with the Independent Eminent Experts on the continued relevance of the DDPA, the co-organizers of the Emergency Assembly invited Dr Roland to offer her viewpoints on the imperative need for the full and effective implementation of the DDPA.
In her statement, Dr Roland observed that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) do not mention the ethics and issues of racism which represent an impediment to development. Dr Roland suggested that national governments should include this in their national SDG implementation plans provisions concerning the implementation of the DDPA. She likewise stressed the need to develop a multi-year outreach programme to implement the DDPA including mobilizing NGOs and seeking new ideas to fight against xenophobia, racism and related intolerance.
The day after the Emergency Assembly, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) organized a consultation on People of African Descent through a meeting of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent. This is an integral part of the full and effective implementation of the DDPA. The Forum was established by the UN General Assembly in resolution 69/16 of 1 December 2014 entitled “Programme of activities for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent.”
At the Emergency Assembly, the co-organizers highlighted that the pursuit of the International Decade for People of African Descent and the establishment of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent should not be seen as a substitute for the DDPA. These frameworks should instead complement existing mechanisms related to the implementation of the DDPA, its programme of activities and the Independent Eminent Experts’ recommendations to achieve full and effective equality.
In this connection, the Emergency Assembly underscored the importance of political will, unity of purpose and international cooperation in the pursuit of action-oriented recommendations to address all forms and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination and related intolerance through the implementation of the DDPA, whether the issue refers to Afrophobia, Arabophobia, Islamophobia or Anti-Semitism.