By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Mar 17 2023 – Three-quarters of a century ago, the world adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, emphasising that all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights. The 2023 theme of its 75th anniversary focuses on the urgency of combating racism and racial discrimination.
More: nearly a quarter of a century ago, the world adopted in South Africa the Durban Declaration to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, distrust, intolerance, and hate, globally.
Since then, these “contagious killers” not only continued unabated but are now more spread than ever in all societies, in particular in those under the dominance of the so-called ‘white supremacy.’
Centuries of colonialism, enslavement
Such a “Pernicious Evil” as rightfully described by the United Nations Chief, António Guterres, takes many forms and impacts all aspects of life. “Much of today’s racism is “deeply entrenched in centuries of colonialism and enslavement,” he warned already two years ago.
The UN Chief then painted a picture of “pervasive discrimination and exclusion” suffered by people of African descent, injustices and oppression endured by indigenous peoples, antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred – and the latest abhorrence of violence against people of Asian descent who are bring targeted unjustly for COVID-19.
The “repugnant” views of white supremacists
“We also see it in the biases built into the codes for facial recognition and artificial intelligence” as well as the “repugnant views of white supremacists and other extremist groups”, added the top UN Official.
In fact, racism harms not just the lives of those who endure it but also society as a whole. It deepens mistrust, casting suspicion on all sides and tearing apart the social fabric, warns the United Nations.
Impacts could include the ability to find a job, get an education, have equal access to healthcare, housing, food, water or get fair treatment in a court of law, explains the world body.
“We all lose in a society characterised by discrimination, division, distrust, intolerance, and hate,” as stated on the occasion of the 2023 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March).
“Like COVID-19, racism and xenophobia are contagious killers,” the UN emphasises.
In 2001, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) was adopted at the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa. As the UN’s blueprint to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance globally.
Alongside with the International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024, the implementation of the Durban Declaration should represent a top priority in the world’s agenda. But is it?
Hatred spreading everywhere
Evidently it is not. Reality shows that the narratives of separatism, discrimination, division and fear and hatred of the other continue to be widespread in the streets, in schools, at work, in public transport; in the voting booth, on social media, at home and on the sports field.
Moreover, hate speech’ scale and impact are now amplified by new communications technologies.
The major victims
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination lists the following communities among the major victims of abhorrent racism, discrimination and hatred:
People of African Descent
The descendants of the victims of the transatlantic slave trade or more recent migrants, frequently face racial discrimination and prejudice.
Discriminatory structures and institutions, legacies of the injustices of enslavement and colonialism result in people of African descent being among the poorest and most marginalised groups in society who also face “alarmingly high rates of police violence, and racial profiling.”
In addition to People of African Descent and the descendants of the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, racism directly impacts the lives of many other communities and groups, including:
Systematically discriminated against, robbed of their basic rights, lands and cultures, there are nowadays over 476 million indigenous people living in 90 countries across the world, accounting for 6.2% of the global population.
Of those, there are more than 5.000 distinct groups. Indigenous people speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7.000 languages.
“Nevertheless, they are nearly three times as likely to be living in extreme poverty compared to their non-indigenous counterparts.”
Migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, Internally Displaced People
There were 82.4 million people forcibly displaced world-wide at the end of 2020 as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order.
There are also millions of stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.
Among the 82.4 million forcibly displaced: 26.4 million are refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18; 20.7 million refugees under UNHCR‘s mandate, and 5.7 million Palestine refugees under UNRWA‘s mandate.
There were also 48 million internally displaced people, 4.1 million asylum seekers, and 3.9 million Venezuelans displaced abroad (UNHCR).
People Living in Extreme Poverty
Poverty entails more than the lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods. Its manifestations include “hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.”
Poverty — a cause and a product of human rights violations
Many people who live in extreme poverty are often also victims of racial discrimination.
In 2001 the World Conference against Racism in Durban emphasised that poverty, underdevelopment, marginalisation, social exclusion and economic disparities are closely associated with racism, and contribute to the persistence of racist attitudes and practices, which in turn, generate more poverty.
A vicious circle
The UN often refers to poverty as a ’vicious circle,’ made up of a wide range of factors, which are interlinked and hard to overcome. Deprivation of resources, capability and opportunities makes it impossible for anyone to satisfy the most basic human needs or to enjoy human rights.
Racial discrimination does not affect all members of victim groups in the same way.
In fact, being the entire half of the world population, women and girls are often among the most vulnerable members of society, and are at greater risk of economic hardship, exclusion and violence; discrimination against them is often compounded.
The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action focused attention on the issue of multiple, or aggravated, forms of discrimination, which are most significantly experienced by female members of discriminated groups, but which are also suffered by persons with disabilities, persons affected by HIV/AIDS, children and the elderly, among others.
These are often among the most vulnerable members of society, and are at greater risk of economic hardship, exclusion and violence; discrimination against them is often compounded.
Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia subject members of these religious communities to discrimination and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas.
There are many other groups and many more millions of human beings who every day, every minute, fall prey to racism, discrimination, hatred, and the consequence of shocking inequalities that kill one person every four seconds.
Why don’t you take a look at what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says?