GFI Supports Black Lives Matter and EU Commission President van der Leyen’s speech on racism

By guest author Tom Cardamone, President & CEO Global Financial Integrity Staff and Global Financial Integrity Board of Directors

Part of Global Financial Integrity’s mission is to help developing countries raise the funds necessary to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as set by the United Nations. While our organization has a predominantly international outlook, we are based in, and also do work focused on, the United States. These efforts are primarily related to financial transparency issues.

However, these past few weeks have spurred us to take a deeper look at our own home base here in Washington, D.C., where our office is just two blocks from Lafayette Park, the White House and the portion of 16th Street recently renamed “Black Lives Matter Plaza” by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Caption courtesy by GFI

The United States, as a member of the United Nations, is committed to achieving the SDGs, but the overwhelming evidence of systemic racism and police brutality here have shown that there is still considerable work to be done at the domestic level in many areas. This is seen principally in achieving Goal 10 to “Reduce inequality within and among countries” and Goal 16 to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

We as an organisation cannot be silent on this issue. Global Financial Integrity reaffirms its commitment to diversity and inclusion and ardently stands against racism of any form. In recognition of the fact that minority groups have been disproportionately treated with police violence, we support the peaceful protests calling for equitable treatment of all people and call for an end to economic and social inequality. On this point, we promise to continue prioritizing diversity and inclusion in our hiring practices, workforce policies and organizational governance, as well as in our advocacy, communications and research work in the United States and around the world.

Black lives matter.

Speech by President Ursula von der Leyen at the European Parliament Plenary on June 17, 2020– ‘We need to talk about racism – openly and honestly’

I do not know what it is to be black.

I do not know what it is to be black, or a member of any other ethnic, religious or sexual minority in the places I have lived.

I have never experienced what it is to be treated differently simply because of the way I was born.

I do not know what it is

– to be treated with suspicion,

– day after day,

– walking down the street,

– or doing my groceries;

– applying for a job,

– or moving in to a new home.

Most of us in this room do not know.

But one thing we do know:

Many of our fellow citizens – our fellow women and men– know and are telling us loud and clear that we have let racism happen for far too long.

 Honourable Members,

People protesting on our streets, in our countries, across the Atlantic and around the world are raising their voices – eager to be heard.

It is time we did more than listen.

More than condemn.

It is time we talked about racism – openly and honestly.

This is why I want to thank you for putting this point on the agenda of the Plenary and making it the first of your session.

Honourable Members,

As a society, we need to confront reality.

We relentlessly need to fight racism and discrimination: visible discrimination, of course.

But also more subtle racism and discrimination – our unconscious biases.

All sorts of racism and discrimination!

In the justice system and law enforcement,

in the labour and housing markets,

in education and healthcare,

in politics and migration.

We should join forces, at all levels: European, national, regional, local, public or private, business and civil society, and each of us individually, as citizens.

To build a Europe that is more equal, more humane, more fair.

Let me be very clear: in our Union there is no place for racism or any form of discrimination.

Honourable Members,

Together, we need to answer difficult questions:

– Why do racism and discrimination endure in our societies?

– Why are there political parties supporting xenophobia and racism that win elections?- Why are members of ethnic and religious minorities underrepresented in political, social and academic institutions,

– and overrepresented in poverty, illness and law enforcement statistics?

– What can we do in the fields of education, employment, healthcare, housing and more, to build an open, fairer and more conscious society?

– What can we do so that our institutions better represent the diversity of our European societies?

This is not the work of a sectoral policy, of a single person, or a single Commissioner.

This is why I am here, as President of the European Commission.

I want to get to the bottom of these questions.

Next week, we will have a structured debate on racism in the College.

We will talk about racism, and study its roots.

It is always possible to change direction if there is a will to do so.

Let me take one example of a small step in the right direction, that I witnessed when I was Defence Minister in my home country.

At the time, in the German armed forces, a recruiting system had been in place for decades that always favoured the same.

We had some excellent candidates, who would bring valuable assets to our armed forces – sometimes rare assets, like speaking Arabic or Farsi – and yet, somehow, those assets were not valued.

Not at all.

In a mission abroad, such skills could save comrades’ lives.

At that time, the attitude was: ‘Ah, but the system does not allow this. We have never done this before.’

But then, analysis and reflection led the German Armed Forces to change the system.

It has now become fairer for these soldiers, better for the German armed forces, better for society!

Honourable Members,

We need to talk about racism with an open mind.

The good news is: we do not start from scratch.

In the European Union, discrimination is prohibited at the highest possible legal level: I mean our Treaty and our Charter of Fundamental Rights. Both on grounds of race and ethnic origin.

We also have European laws against racism, ethnic discrimination and hate speech:

– our Racial Equality Directive,

– our Framework Decision on combating forms of expressions of racism and xenophobia,

to name just a few.

We have cooperation tools involving experts from all Member States, a High Level Group on combating racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, and a European Network of Equality Bodies.

Here again, to name just a few.

And we have European funds.

But we need to try harder.

Honourable Members,

I am glad to live in a society that condemns racism.

But we should not stop there.

If we encounter it, we must sound the alarm and act immediately.

And we must be aware that vigilance and awareness begin on a small scale.

With each and every one of us.

Awareness includes examining oneself.

Awareness includes speaking up in cases of discrimination.

And awareness includes questioning privileges we may take for granted, which are anything but.

Mr President,

Honourable Members,

The motto of our European Union is: ‘United in diversity’.

Our task it to live up to these words, and to fulfil their meaning.

This is why I am looking forward to listening to you.

For a better Europe.

United in diversity.

Unie dans la diversité.

In Vielfalt geeint.

Thank you.