Dr. Sithembile Mbete was invited to speak in a debate on the mitigation and countering of rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday, 15 March 2019. The debate was held during the 40th session of the Human Rights Council in Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as a follow up to General Assembly resolution 73/262 of 22 December entitled “A global call for concrete action for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action". In its resolution, the General Assembly expressed its alarm at the spread in many parts of the world of various racist extremist movements based on ideologies that seek to promote populist, nationalist, right-wing agendas and racial superiority. Ms. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, gave the opening statement at the debate.
Tragically, the debate took place on the same day 50 people were killed in a terrorist attack in New Zealand when an Australian gunman attacked two mosques during Friday prayers in Christchurch. The attacker was apparently motivated by racism and shared a white nationalist manifesto before his attack. The debate began with a statement by the New Zealand Permanent Representative at the UN Human Rights Council and a moment of silence in honour of the victims.
Dr Mbete spoke of the resurgence of white supremacist extremism throughout the world. White supremacist groups have developed international networks to organise across borders. In the US, the so called ‘alt-right’, has placed the ideas of white supremacy back in the mainstream. Research by the Southern Poverty Law Centre reveals that in 2018, at least 40 people in the U.S. and Canada were killed by individuals who were either motivated by or attracted to far-right ideologies. A study by the Guardian newspaper shows that one in four Europeans vote for populist parties; this is up from only 7% two decades ago. South African groups, such as Afriforum and Suidlanders, have spread the myth of white genocide and formed relationships with white nationalist groups in the U.S. and Europe. There is a clear and direct link between these South African right-wing groups that spread lies about white genocide and white supremacist terrorists in the US and Europe. Dylan Roof and Anders Breivik both made reference to the persecution of whites and white genocide in South Africa.
The other panellists in the debate - Mr. Pedro Marcelo Mouratian, Diversity Director of the Centro de Estudios para la Gobernanza (Governance Study Centre) (Argentina), Mr. Rafal Pankowski, 'NEVER AGAIN' Association, Collegium Civitas (Poland) and Ms. Irene Santiago, Specialist on peace and security, Peace Adviser to the Mayor of Davao City (Philippines) – spoke about the manifestations of racist nationalism and populist politics in their regions.
A recording of the debate can be watched here: http://webtv.un.org/search/panel-discussion-on-countering-nationalist-populism-40th-meeting-40th-regular-session-human-rights-council/6015135127001/?term=&lan=english&page=6.