STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE GROUP OF 77 AND CHINA BY MR. RICHARD TUR, SECOND SECRETARY OF THE PERMANENT MISSION OF CUBA TO THE UNITED NATIONS, ON AGENDA ITEM 134: PROPOSED PROGRAMME BUDGET FOR 2024: ADDRESSING RACISM AND PROMOTING DIGNITY FOR ALL IN THE UN SECRETARIAT, AT THE UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, AT THE MAIN PART OF THE SEVENTY-EIGHTH SESSION OF THE FIFTH COMMITTEE OF THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY (New York, 16 November 2023)
1. I have the honor to deliver this statement on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. Our Group would like to thank all the briefers for introducing their respective reports.
2. We would like to express its appreciation as well to the Anti-racism task force for the work embarked on over the past year and for presenting a report focusing "solely on anti-racism in the workplace".
3. The Group condemns racism in all its forms and manifestations. The prohibition of racial discrimination is enshrined in relevant international human rights instruments; therefore, the denial or violation of this principle runs contrary to the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
4. In this regard, we recall article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which defines "racial discrimination" as "any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life". We believe this definition should guide the work of the Anti-Racism Office, as it constitutes an important referent from the perspective of International Law.
5. The findings raised in the Secretary-General's report shed light on this deep-rooted issue and substantiate the importance of the Anti-Racism Office. The Group notes with grave concern that based on the 2022 United Nations staff engagement survey, 25% of respondents experienced discrimination in the Organization, with the most common grounds for discrimination being national or ethnic origin, race, color, cultural background, and gender. Additionally, of those who indicated that they had experienced racism, 54% were dissatisfied with how their complaints were handled. These findings point to the extent to which this scourge is present within the Organization and the need for immediate redress.
6. Considering this evidence, we are worried that certain realities might be contributing to perpetuate such forms of discrimination in the Organization. We refer, for instance, to the existing unbalances in terms of representation. We believe that having a more geographically balanced composition of the staff is necessary to have more diverse cultural backgrounds, where patterns of exclusion or discrimination are less likely to exist.
7. While not making any premature conclusions, we note in the Secretary-General´s report, for example, that for 2022, 41% of all selections in the Professional and higher categories were for applications from nationals of WEOG, when candidates from this group represented, on average, 28% of applications. If we look to the case of Africa, the trend is the other way around, having only 24% of the candidates selected while their applicants represented 35% of the total. These data certainly raise concerns in the Group, especially in light of the aforementioned definition.
8. Our Group recognizes the efforts of the Secretary General to root out racism, including systemic racism within the organization and, in this regard, welcomes the presentation of a refined proposal that includes the establishment of an Anti-Racism Office, aimed at leading a comprehensive and long-term effort in this direction. We fully support the creation of this Office and look forward to its earliest implementation.
9. We stress that the main role of the Office should be: identify, expose and remedy any practice of racism or racial discrimination in the Organization, including during the process of recruitment, appointments, promotions, staff mobility, roster management and career development opportunities, in close coordination with other relevant departments.
10. The Group notes that the Office is proposed to be housed in the Office of the USG for Management Strategy, Policy, and Compliance. We will be following the discussions on the structure, placement, longer-term resource requirements and proposed posts for the Office in order to ensure that it will be properly funded and staffed in light of a defined policy framework and scope, so that it can lead to significant progress in the Strategic Action Plan through its three pillars: advocacy, transparency and accountability. Throughout these discussions our objective will always be to provide the necessary strength and stability to the Office to fulfill effectively its purpose.
11. The Group looks forward to arriving at a successful conclusion of this agenda item that sends a clear message of zero tolerance in terms of racism and racial discrimination, for the benefit of all States Members and for the prestige of this Organization and its staff.
I thank you.