A strong, independent permanent forum for people of African Descent would create space to meaningfully engage and influence policies and practices affecting the Black community around the world.
In 2015, the international community determined that the years 2015 to 2024 would be dedicated to people of African descent under the themes “recognition, justice and development.” Yet it seems it was not until 2020, when racial justice uprisings exploded around the world after the murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, that the decade gained any sense of urgency.
What is clear in this moment of reckoning, is that a mandate exists to establish a strong, independent permanent forum for people of African Descent.
Not only would the forum create cohesion amongst all of the existing U.N. instruments designed to address issues related to anti-Black racism and human rights—it would also create more space for civil society and grassroots organizations to meaningfully engage and influence policies and practices affecting people of African descent around the world.
In raw and undeniable ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the deep inequities that Black people around the world face. Africa itself has only vaccinated 1 percent of its population, while rich, Western nations have stockpiled millions of doses to carry them years into the future. The data shows that Black people— whether in Los Angeles or Lusaka—are bearing the brunt of COVID’s fatalities.
Haiti is reeling from the assassination of its President Jovenel Moïse in a tangled and convoluted narrative implicating Colombia, the United States, and dubious actors within the country that have contributed to the country’s utter lack of security, hindering electoral processes and basic civic life.
In Colombia, a tax proposal that would disproportionately harm Afro-Colombians spurred massive protests throughout the country, while the country’s state apparatus brutally cracked down, killing dozens of people.
The ravages of a climate crisis have caused colossal flooding in Lagos and a hurricane nearly wiped away an entire island in the Bahamas while the Sahara desert’s expansion creates security threats in the Sahel.
And beneath all of this, income inequality has reached crisis levels. Billionaires compete to launch themselves into space while bread lines are longer than ever in cities around the world.
A permanent forum on people of African Descent is the most appropriate and vital mechanism with which to bring coherence to a host of instruments that have been tried and tested through the United Nations, and sometimes, through other international arrangements. These other instruments have been assembled in a piecemeal fashion—often reflecting what was popular in that moment. The result of which is a hodgepodge of various instruments all attempting to tackle parts of what we know are the issues that affect people of African descent around the world.
Structural and systemic anti-Black racism manifests in the climate crisis, global public health crisis, state violence, economic inequality, and various other markers of human life. Not only is it time to create coherence to address the broad swath of issues affecting people of African descent—it is the best way for the United Nations to ensure that it is indeed a relevant international body, current and willing to address issues that have reached a breaking point.
The Global Black Diaspora is connecting on its own, creating a growing awareness, cohesion and ultimately, unification against the forces of capitalism, anti-Black racism and imperialism that threaten our very existence.
More and more, the Global Black Diaspora is connecting on its own—facilitated in part by the advent of social media and digital tools that allow people to communicate, plan and strategize across times zones, languages, and cultures. This is creating a growing awareness, cohesion and ultimately, unification of the Global Black Diaspora as we recognize the similarities in our struggles and opt to join together against the forces of capitalism, anti-Black racism and imperialism that threaten our very existence.
United Nations member states, especially the United States, the U.K. and the European Union, must make good on their rhetoric, particularly over the last year, condemning racial injustice and promising change. They must champion the establishment of the permanent forum which has been a priority for African member states, civil society organizations and grassroots organizations.
The status quo is no longer acceptable and more and more people of African descent are taking up the challenge to upend the status quo in their own cities, states and countries. The permanent forum ensures the rest of the world is equipped to usher in a new paradigm.