In an address on Thursday at an event for UN staff, Secretary-General António Guterres underscored the need to confront racism within the world body, initiating a series of discussions on the subject.
“Racism challenges every government, every society, and every organization – including our own”, he stated. “Let me be very clear: racism has no place in the United Nations.”
Guterres said this creates a special responsibility for personnel to examine and address racism and racial discrimination inside the Organization.
“It’s true that we have clear rules in place that prohibit and protect staff from all forms of discrimination, including racism. But let’s be honest: sometimes we have been slow to acknowledge the existence of racism inside the UN”, he said.
“We must examine our efforts and ask ourselves if we are doing enough to combat racism and racial discrimination inside our Organization.”
As racism is a complex cultural phenomenon, deeply entrenched in centuries of colonialism and slavery, addressing it is not a simple, one-time action, according to the UN chief.
“Addressing racism requires cultural and structural changes. It calls on us, all of us to examine long-held assumptions, and to question our unconscious biases”, he said.
“Fighting racism also requires positive action, including investment in social cohesion.”