UNESCO organized the first edition of the “Series of Regional Expert Consultations on Racism and Discriminations” on 18 September 2020, bringing together almost 200 participants from all around the world.
In an era of globalization and multiculturalism, contextualized around the COVID-19 pandemic, the series was delivered in the form of an international webinar which was open to the public, specifically targeting national and local decision-makers, the academic and scientific communities, the NGO communities, civil society, media, and the private sector, among others.
The series aims to deconstruct racism and unpack the societal challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic related to racism and discrimination. It seeks to facilitate the necessary deep reflection on what direction the international community should take amid a renewed emergence of racist agendas. Beyond providing a collective understanding and diverse perspectives on the issue, the consultation series will also guide UNESCO to develop a tool to identify the institutional structures, including legal and cultural frameworks, that contribute to the fight against racism and discriminations.
This first edition focused on addressing the issue of racism and discriminations in the African region, bringing together high-level speakers such as Prof. Rose Boswell, Professor at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Prof. Vijaya Teelock, Professor at the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences and President of the Scientific Committee of the UNESCO Slave Route Project, Mr. Cheick Tidiane Seck, Member of the International Coalition of Artists for the General History of Africa and Mr. Sanele Xaba, an international model with albinism, activist and founder of the Rolled Sleeves Outreach Programme. It was moderated by Ms. Mary Papayya, Founder and Executive Director of Papayya Media.
The recommendations of the speakers emphasized the need for efficient delivery, enhancement, and evaluation of both novel and existing UNESCO initiatives to combat racism and discriminations. Through an intersection between cultural collaboration and sensitivity, creative and innovative spaces, legal frameworks, project implementation, and knowledge sharing, their recommendations illustrate how UNESCO and the international community could upscale their efforts in addressing this multi-faceted issue in this day and age.
The role of the youth as catalysts for change was tackled through the promotion and destigmatization of other embodied forms of knowledge and cultural expression. Individual and cross-industry participation was also cited as an important step for inclusion to move beyond organizational level discussions. Emphasis was also placed on gender equality and gender empowerment towards achieving the agenda of a just society. This involved projects to be implemented with youth and women as the focus groups on the ground.
The next editions will be scheduled throughout September and October.