Brazil, December 23th, 2022 – Between December 5th and 8th, the first session of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent took place in Geneva, Switzerland. Created through Resolution 75/314 of the United Nations General Assembly in 2021, the purpose of this consultative mechanism is to contribute to the fight against racism and to promote the rights of the black population, collaborating with the Human Rights Council and other UN mechanisms. The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) was present at the Forum with Brazilian partner organizations including NGO Criola, Ilê Axé Omiojuaro, Geledés – Institute of Black Women, and the National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals (ANTRA).
The creation of this Forum emerged through the activities implemented by the International Decade of Afro-descendants. The event was attended by Epsy Campbell Bar, President of the Permanent Forum, and former Vice President of Costa Rica; Francia Marquez, Vice President of Colombia; and Federico Villegas, President of the UN Human Rights Council. Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), oversaw the opening table ceremony. The Forum had more than 900 people (virtual and face-to-face), with almost 700 people present during four days of intense debates, including human rights activists, United Nations experts, and civil society of several countries whose work center around racial justice.
The convention was held through thematic panels, meetings, and featured 27 parallel events. Notable themes were identified in the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance, including shared strategies of good practice among civil society. The main debates centered on the fight against systemic racism and police brutality; the inclusion of Afro-descendants in the sustainable development agenda – climate justice; the right to redress; the drafting of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Afro-descendant Peoples; the need for equity for all, and the need for intersectionality to understand the various forms of racial discrimination, with emphasis on the right of women, young people, the LGBTI+ community, and migrants.
On the last day, the meeting ended with conversations concerning the future of the Permanent Forum. All panels included the participation of civil society leaders with statements on the proposed themes. It should be noted that the Durban Declaration and its Plan of Action were mentioned continuously by all who were present. In addition, approximately 300 people were able to present their contributions to collaborate with the construction of the Forum. The event also featured a cultural activity through the presentation of the group, “Escuelita del Ritmo,” from Panama, and the group Ubufakazi Besoweto from South Africa.
Several Brazilian civil society organizations participated in the debates, including Race and Equality’s CSO partners in Brazil. These partners had the opportunity to condemn racism among cis and trans women, denounce maternal mortality, criticize systemic racism in the justice system, articulate the importance of combating religious racism, and expressed the need of the Forum’s commitment to support trans black women. From Race and Equality, the Executive Director, Carlos Quesada, and Race and Gender Officer in Brazil, Leilane Reis, were present. In her statement, Leilane Reis highlighted the importance of the interaction of the future United Nations Declaration with the Inter-American Convention against Racism, emphasizing that the present States that have committed themselves to ratify and implement the document must fulfill this promise in pursuit of the effective fight against racism.
To close the four intense days of dialogue and work, following the listening process, Rapporteur Michael Eachrane made a few preliminary remarks to the Forum’s Work Plan for the next three years, and expressed the need to extend the Decade of Afro-descendants to 2034. The next meeting will take place in May 2023 in New York. Race and Equality celebrates the implementation of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, and intends to contribute to all opportunities of collective construction by encouraging the participation of civil society and Afro-descendant activists in the fight for human rights.