Statement

UNFPA welcomes new Permanent Forum of People of African Descent

04 Aug 2021

Statement by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem

The United Nations General Assembly began building a bridge towards justice this week with its unanimous decision to establish a Permanent Forum of People of African Descent. No country in the world has yet uprooted the deep systems of racial inequity burdening communities of African descent – the result of centuries of discrimination, dispossession and enslavement. 

The establishment of the Permanent Forum is a positive step forward for United Nations efforts to combat racism and racial discrimination in this International Decade for People of African Descent. I commend Member States on the adoption of this resolution and urge them to take concrete steps, in their work with the Forum, to make real the call of the International Decade for recognition, justice and development for all people of African descent.

At UNFPA, we see the continuing impact of racism and discrimination in our work with disadvantaged populations around the world. This is especially true among women and girls of African descent, who bear the weight of not only racial inequity but gender inequity as well. As a result, they commonly endure heightened rates of maternal death, gender-based violence, and ill health. We see Black women and girls denied their fundamental rights to sexual and reproductive health and well-being; we see their exclusion from all levels of decision-making; and we see the toll this takes generation after generation. 

The needs of vulnerable women and girls must rise to the top of the Forum’s agenda, and at UNFPA, we commit to working closely with Forum members to highlight and address those needs. We have much to offer in this effort. Our organization has a long history of standing up for the right of every woman to give birth safely, choose her family and live free from violence. This, in turn, underpins an array of human rights and individual choices, including the ability to pursue an education, to work or to be politically active. UNFPA works proactively to reach people of African descent. In Latin America and the Caribbean, for instance, we are working to end the statistical invisibility of Afro-descendant communities, to understand how profoundly they are underserved and better meet their needs. We are listening to their demands for change and amplifying those voices across borders. 

Today, we echo their call to delink race from destiny. The creation of this Forum represents a step in the right direction. Now we must do the work to cross that bridge to a more just future, a place where we can finally realize our collective vision of equal rights and equal dignity for all. 

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