International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Eliminating racism begins with every citizen – Govt Ministers
…promoting racial unity, social justice requires a collective effort from all sectors
of society – Opposition Leader
In observance of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Cabinet Ministers on Tuesday urged Guyanese to make strides to achieve unity and a country that is free of division.
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha stressed that many people in Guyana have experienced the plague of racism – a model of conduct which should not continue. However, this begins with every citizen in the country.
“There are too many societies where racism and discrimination are profoundly engrained in institutions and societal structures. As a result, many persons face numerous challenges in their quest for complete societal inclusion. Their lives are often endangered or made difficult…It is time to recognise and repair longstanding wrongs. Building a future of justice requires mending an unjust past. It begins with every citizen of our country,” Mustapha underscored.
In line with international human rights obligations, the Minister said Guyana has demonstrated a strong political will to accelerate action for racial justice and equality.
“With the creation of the One Guyana initiative by President Dr Irfaan Ali, he has set the foundation for the elimination of racial discrimination in Guyana. Through these efforts and the willingness that our brothers and sisters have demonstrated to come together for the greater good and development, Guyana has begun to experience a transformation.”
Housing Minister Collin Croal, in his message, recognised that bias and intolerance are still present in today’s society and despite the Government’s efforts, there remains space for vulnerability.
“The people who sow these seeds of discord are forever looking for new ways to spread hate and discrimination. Social media has exacerbated that vulnerability…It is therefore left to us to condemn racism and racial discrimination of all kinds. We must reject anyone that teaches that one race is better than another,” the Housing Minister stated.
Supporting positive messages of inclusion was Minister within the Housing Ministry Susan Rodrigues, who labelled racism as a “pervasive evil”. According to her, cooperation should be at the forefront of building a society that is equitable for all.
Rodrigues underscored, “We must hold people accountable for their words and actions, especially when they claim to represent a political constituency. We must put diversity and inclusion to practice, confront our own biases and prejudices, and reject discrimination whenever we see it. This requires paying attention to and amplifying the voices of individuals and communities who have experienced marginalisation and oppression.”
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Secretary General Antonio Guterres reminded that racial discrimination is a deeply damaging and pervasive abuse of human rights and human dignity that affects every country.
“It is one of the most destructive forces dividing societies, responsible for death and suffering on a grotesque scale throughout history. Today, racial discrimination and the legacies of enslavement and colonialism continue to ruin lives, marginalise communities and limit opportunities, preventing billions of people from achieving their full potential. Racism is not innate, but once learned, it can take on a destructive power of its own,” Guterres voiced.
Article Two of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms without distinction of any kind, but the SG shared that the world is still far from realising equality in dignity and rights for all.
“Xenophobia, prejudice and hate speech are rising. Political leaders scapegoat migrants, with devastating impact. White supremacist influencers profit from racism on social media platforms. Artificial intelligence algorithms amplify and digitise racial discrimination. And after a period of increased global awareness of racism, some countries are experiencing a vicious backlash against anti-racist policies and practices. We need to resist and reverse these trends resolutely and condemn and eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms. We must take action to address racism wherever and whenever it arises, including through legal channels.”
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton related that the Opposition joins in the international call for concrete actions and a united stance to fight inequality and discrimination.
He further added that a national plan or agenda must be built on three distinct but mutually-supporting pillars, all of which are reflected in the Guyana Constitution itself. These include the fostering of good ethnic and other relations; the elimination of racial and other forms of discrimination and the promotion of equity and equal opportunity.
Further, Norton added that promoting racial unity and social justice in Guyana requires a collective effort from all sectors of society.
“We all have a responsibility to speak out against racism and discrimination, to challenge stereotypes and prejudice, and to promote greater understanding and respect between different racial and ethnic groups. Building a society where everyone can thrive, regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth or another status will not be easy, but I am confident that we can overcome these challenges and build a better future for our country.”
By December, a comprehensive, time-bound national action plan to combat racism and racial discrimination will be formed. Such plans should include anti-discrimination legislation and policies informed by evidence and data.
International legal frameworks and global commitments in place include: the Universal Declaration; the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.