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US snubs UN commitment to stamp out racism

September 23, 2021

The United States was not present when global leaders pledged to double down on racism. Meanwhile, the Honduran president publicly denied drugs trafficking allegations.

President Joe Biden steps away after addressing the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York on Tuesday
The US did not take part in the anti-racism pushImage: Timothy A. Clary/AP/picture alliance

World leaders at the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday recommitted efforts to stamp out racism. The commitment marked the anniversary of a 2001 South African anti-racism conference.

UN member countries said that while progress had been made, there had been a rise in discrimination and violence against people of African heritage, Roma and refugees.

What did the UN say about racism?

The assembly called for national institutions to adopt "adequate reparation or satisfaction" for people with African heritage in a meeting on racial justice.

"Millions of the descendants of Africans who were sold into slavery remain trapped in lives of underdevelopment, disadvantage, discrimination and poverty,'' South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a video message.

Ramaphosa called the years of slavery "one of the darkest periods in the history of humankind and a crime of unparalleled barbarity.''

Racism in the workplace

President Felix Tshisekedi of Congo asked the UN to look into the reparations for the "the scars of racial inequality, subordination and discrimination, which were built under slavery, apartheid and colonialism."

Tshisekedi added that this discrimination was still apparent in the lack of vaccines available to African people, with only one in 1,000 people having got at least a shot so far in Congo.

The assembly also called for an end to religious and disability discrimination.

Why was there disagreement?

The US and Israel were two of 19 nations that did not attend Wednesday's meeting because the UN anti-racism conference in 2001 had decided to include Palestinians as a discriminated people.

The UN only adopted the 2001 anti-racism declaration, called the DDPA for short, when the US and Israel walked out during the meeting in Durban, South Africa.

In a separate meeting, the Israeli ambassador called the 2001 accord "radical antisemitism" while US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Biden administration would look for more inclusive ways of fighting racism.

Jamil Dakwar of the American Civil Liberties Union criticized the US no-show at the meeting, saying it "sends the wrong to the global community regarding the US commitment to fight all forms of racism and racial injustice everywhere."

Jamaica attended the meeting, but said there were not enough slavery reparations in a new UN document being drafted against racism.

What other matters were raised?

US President Joe Biden pledged to increase COVID-19 vaccine donations to 500 million shots, just a day after China announced its decision to give 2 billion shots to poor countries.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said he wanted to introduce fair, inclusive and effective multilateral systems during his presidency of the UN Security Council next month.

He said he will push for more women peacekeepers and look at the impact of illicit small arms on global peacekeeping missions.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said "the US is failing to meet its obligations" on helping refugees from Afghanistan after 20 years of war. After taking on nearly 4 million refugees, mainly from Syria, and more recently, 300,000 Afghans, he said he could not allow any more migrants into Turkey.

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez defended himself against allegations he took bribes from drug traffickers. A Manhattan federal court imprisoned his brother, Juan Antonio "Tony" Hernandez, for life last March for being part of one the biggest drug conspiracies.

Hernandez said he was "implacable on organized crime" and accused criminals of perjury for implicating him in drug trafficking.

jc/aw (AP, Reuters, dpa)