High Level Meeting to Commemorate the Twentieth Anniversary of the Adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action:
“Reparations, Racial Justice, and Equality for People of African Descent”
United Nations General Assembly Hall
New York, New York
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Roundtable 1: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Theme: “Reparations, Racial Justice, and Equality for People of African Descent”—Where Do We Stand 20 Years After the Adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action?”
Video Recorded Statement by Vanessa Griddine-Jones, Executive Director
Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute (CBCI)
Thank you, Dr. Naledi Pandor, Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of the Republic of South Africa.
H.E. Abdullah Shahid ,President of the 76th Session of the General Assembly, for the honor of addressing this body at this very critical time in our collective history.
Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Ms. Edna Maria Santos Roland, Chairperson of the Group of Independent Eminent Experts on the Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (pre-recorded)
Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance (pre-recorded)
Heads of State and Government
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished Dignitaries in the Audience
Ladies and Gentlemen
All Protocols Observed
I am Vanessa Griddine-Jones, Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, and on behalf of our Chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, I thank you for the opportunity and honor to speak to all of my fellow diasporans in the struggle.
I commend this gathering for commemorating this important and critical anniversary in our common march toward eliminating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance. It serves as both a reminder of our commitments 20 years ago and as a vehicle to find innovative ways to pool our resources and energy to lay the groundwork for equity in our future.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge how unfortunate it is that the times dictate that we must still gather to talk about the absence of reparations, racial justice and equality for people of African Descent.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948 suggests, "All
human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with
reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
This basic premise is the underlying concept of every human rights system in the
world. However, it is the blatant, unabashed disregard of this premise that brings us to the table today, 20 years after the Durban Declaration, 73 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, asking and seeking answers to the same questions about societal ills that we did back then.
Where do we stand 20 years after the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and "How to Address the Past to Move Forward?”
Our nations are still suffering. Our people are still suffering. Yes, progress has been made since the Durban Declaration. The once slave-owning nation elected a diasporan , a man of African descent, as president of the United States. But its power structures still seek to restrict our ability to vote and deprive us of life, liberty, and the fabled pursuit of happiness. But, where there is progress, there is hope. Where there is hope, there is the struggle to be free. And we are all still here and there and everywhere striving for equality, equity, justice - Hope is all we have.
How to Address the Past to Move Forward?
Acknowledgment- We must ALL acknowledge the wrongs perpetrated upon the African diaspora in the past and now. We can no longer stand for revisionist history or the convenient selective memory of others.
Yes, it is painful, it’s ugly, and horrid. But, it's real. It occurred, and the vestiges of slavery still lingers in the minds of the descendants of both the perpetrators and the victims.
Acceptance- We must ALL accept that it occurred without holding on to the emotionality that past and present atrocities evokes. And also accept that the continuation and perpetuation of systemic racism and inequality can and must end with us. But it will take all of us, not just the diaspora.
And lastly, Education and Legislation are our only hope, if we are ever to achieve tolerance, respect and mutual understanding. And if education is to enable both individuals and society as a whole to develop the skills to address future challenges, it is essential that it promotes tolerance and an appreciation of diversity.
CBCI will continue to condemn acts of injustice and stand in support with other civil society organizations in implementing the UNHCHR Systemic Racism Report, the George Floyd Resolution, the establishment of the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent, and recognizing the 20th Anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action at the national, state and local levels.
Once again, I send you greetings and encouragement from the Congressional Black Caucus Institute and wish you continued fruitful conversations and convenings."