The United Nations celebrated the first-ever International Day for People of African Descent on Tuesday, recognizing the great contributions made by the African diaspora in every sector of human endeavor.
In his inaugural message, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for a greater commitment to advancing the promise of equality, justice, and dignity for all.
In the Americas alone, more than 200 million people claim to be of African heritage. Millions more live in countries around the world that are not on the African continent.
They are among the poorest and most marginalized communities, the UN stated, whether as descendants of victims of the transatlantic slave trade or as more recent migrants.
The International Day was established by a resolution passed by the United Nations General Assembly in December.
The goal was to encourage greater recognition and respect for the rich heritage, culture, and contribution of people of African descent to the development of countries, as well as respect for persons of African descent’s human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The resolution also referred to two UN initiatives: the Durban World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance in 2001, and the declaration of the International Decade for People of African Descent, which continues until 2024.
Costa Rica was the driving force behind the creation of International Day. In 2015, the Central American country amended its political constitution to declare itself a multiethnic and multicultural country.
Nearly 134 million individuals of African descent live in Latin America, according to recent research by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America, ECLAC. They face poverty, lack of access to basic services, and inequality, according to the report.
In Brazil, for example, the general poverty rate is 11.5%, while it is 25.5 percent among persons of African heritage. Other countries, such as Ecuador and Colombia, have similar stories.
The Secretary-General emphasized the UN’s efforts to eradicate racism.
The UN Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCOSlave )’s Route Project promote open and honest discussion on the horrors and greed of slavery.
Another UN Population Fund initiative, UNFPA, focuses on increasing opportunities for young people of African descent, while the UN Human Rights Office, OHCHR, has launched the Agenda for Transformative Change for Racial Justice and Equality in an effort to combat systemic racism, ensure accountability, and deliver reparatory justice.
The UN General Assembly formed the UN Permanent Forum of People of African Descent earlier this month, a 10-member advisory body that will work closely with the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
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