In 2016, 150 UN staff members formed themselves into a group called the United Nations People of African descent (UNPAD), under the leadership of Ms. Lanla Kamara-Joyner - to raise awareness on the issue of racism in the Organization; to call for an internal dialogue on racism; and to seek out to pave the way for the UN's ultimate reckoning with its own internal problem of racism.
In June 2021, the Ombudsman of the United Nations in whose office Ms. Kamara-Joyner worked took the decision to not renew the contract of the UNPAD founder Ms. Lanla Kamara-Joyner, beyond 31 August 2021. The reason provided was that it is a conflict of interest for her to serve in the Office of the United Nations Ombudsman and Mediation Services, which requires neutrality, while also serving as President of an anti-racism effort that serves to promote equality and inclusion for people of African descent. The decision was said to have been taken upon advice from the UN Ethics Office.
This decision to separate Ms Kamara-Joyner and cut off her livelihood went ahead despite her resignation as president of UNPAD which was communicated to the UN administration including the UN Ombudsman on 26 August 2021. This begs the question as to whether the decision was intended to punish Ms. Kamara-Joyner, since a conflict of interest no longer existed upon her resignation as President. The only other conclusion is this was intended to send a message to UN staff advocating for racial equity in the United Nations that they will face negative consequences for being outspoken about racial discrimination in the United Nations. This comes even as staff at large remain highly skeptical about the ongoing commitment of the UN Administration to addressing racism in the UN. It also comes at a time when the UN is still recovering from earlier global backlash for placing a similar gagging on staff who wished to protest against racism on the wake of the George Floyd killing in 2020. In both instances, the UN Ethics Office has sought to suppress vocalisation of genuine anti-racism sentiments.
Indeed, even as the Secretary-General has been vocal about his commitment to address racism within the UN, numerous UN staff of African descent have reported to UNPAD that they are facing a backlash for speaking out - being mocked or dismissed at best or retaliated against at worst. They do not 'formally' report due to untrusted processes.
We call on the United Nations Secretary-General to take action immediately and reverse the decision to not renew Ms. Kamara-Joyner's contract AND to make a strong statement further reiterating his commitment to a 'frank and honest conversation' on racism, without retaliation.
UNPAD and UN staff of African descent MUST have agency and must be allowed to call out discrimination without fear of reprisals and in the same way that UNGLOBE, the UN Feminist Network and Young UN call out discriminations with respect to similar very worthy causes, unhinged by the fear of reprisals.
Stand up against insitutional discrimination against UNPAD and people of African descent!
Join your voice to the global outcry against racism!