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Yasmin Hussein


SPSSI-UN Team Hosts High Level Political Forum at the United Nations 

Yasmin Hussein, Graduate Student, Fordham University

On July 6, 2021, SPSSI’s UN/NGO Team hosted a High Level Political Forum (HLPF) side event, co-sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica, with the objective to advocate for stakeholders to integrate the elimination of systemic racism and racial and ethnic discrimination into each of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Incoming SPSSI President Dr. Linda Silka moderated the event with four panelists: H.E. Maritza Chan of the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica, H.E. Xolisa Mabhango of the Permanent Mission of South Africa, Dr. Verene Shepherd, a member of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and Dr. Inga T. Winkler, an incoming Associate Professor of International Human Rights Law at Central European University.

In 2015, the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development introduced the 17 SDGs, promising to fulfill human rights to equity and non-discrimination. Notwithstanding the SDGs ambitious vision of protecting and fulfilling human rights for all, SPSSI’s analysis revealed that attention to dismantling racism is lacking in SDG progress. In response to this limitation, in September 2020, the SPSSI United Nations NGO Committee composed a statement entitled?Beyond the Human Rights Rhetoric on “Leaving No One Behind,”?tackling this issue. This statement and work on racism and the SDGs has been spearheaded by SPSSI UN Representatives Corann Okorodudu, Deborah Fish Ragin, Laurel Peterson, and David Livert, as well as SPSSI UN graduate interns Trisha Dehrone, Laura López-Aybar, Priyadharshany Sandanapitchai, and Mehrgol Tiv, and endorsed by over 100 NGOs. 

The statement stresses that targets and global indicators developed to evaluate the progress of the 17 SDGs do not address this laudatory human rights commitment as they lack focus on eradicating racism and the racial and ethnic discrimination that hinders human development globally, nationally, and locally. Despite recommendations by human rights experts for disaggregated data and the inclusion of a mandate for disaggregated data within the SDGs framework, no such changes have been enacted, even for the most affected racial and ethnic groups. 

An important message made by the panelists is that the changes needed must be intentional. H.E. Mabhango discussed education as a key element of this change, emphasizing lack of ethnic and racial representation in instructors in South Africa, despite the diverse student population. H.E. Chan added that?change needs to be intentional, by creating opportunities for Afro-Descendants?to be in positions of power, noting Costa Rica’s current Vice President is a woman of Afro-Caribbean descent, the first in Costa Rican history. On disaggregated data, Dr. Winkler underscored the use of such methods to monitor inequalities; Dr. Shepherd adding that the disaggregation of data in the SDGs is an ongoing struggle as COVID-19 has evidenced the need to identify affected groups. The event recording can be found on the SPSSI YouTube channel and here:

The SPSSI UN/NGO committee continues to move forward with plans to expand this project to include direct advocacy with UN missions on seriously incorporating the elimination of systemic racism in their implementation of the SDGs. 

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