A Conversation on Racism & Human Rights with Michael McEachrane (PhD)

By: Michael McEachrane,

“…racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, where they amount to racism and racial discrimination, constitute serious violations of and obstacles to the full enjoyment of all human rights and deny the self-evident truth that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, are an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations among peoples and nations, and are among the root causes of many internal and international conflicts, including armed conflicts, and the consequent forced displacement of populations”

Excerpt from the DDPA (2001)


This year marks the 20th anniversary of the world’s most comprehensive human rights instrument against racism, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA). On the 22 September 2021 a high-level 20th anniversary commemoration on the theme “Reparations, Racial Justice and Equality for People of African Descent” was held at the General Assembly.

We recently had a conversation with Michael McEachrane, visiting researcher at RWI, to speak about racism and human rights. Dr McEachrane’s research focuses on postcolonial perspectives on human rights, structural racial discrimination and Black European Studies. Among other things he is the editor of the first book in English on people of African descent in the Nordic region and another first book with postcolonial perspectives on Swedish society. He frequently comments on racial issues for Swedish and international press. In addition, he is a seasoned universal human rights advocate who, among other things, has helped found several CSOs and served as an expert advisor to the UN around the International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024.

Commenting on what he perceives as the most pressing issues on racial inequity in the world today, Michael had this to say:

Racism is not limited to an individual problem. When I think of racism, I don’t just or even primarily see it in terms of those people in society who hold certain views on human difference that translate into prejudice, bias and bad behaviour. My primary focus is on systemic aspects of racism, domestically and internationally. Much of the distribution of power, access to resources and opportunities in the world today—including here in Sweden—remains distributed along racial lines and directly related to people’s enjoyment of human rights. Just to mention one example, Western countries dominate and have the greatest voting power at institutions of global governance like the IMF and World Bank. Whereas African countries, with the greatest need for loans from these institutions, have among the least say in them, their programming, loan conditions, etc. In many ways, such historically rooted inequalities are entangled with structural racial discrimination and an unequal enjoyment of rights along racial lines.

Michael credits his blend of scholarship and practice to a tradition of scholar-activists such as W.E.B. DuBois, Walter Rodney and Kimberle Crenshaw. He views academic scholarship as an important tool for human rights advocacy and effecting meaningful change at the institutional level. His work primarily focuses on human rights and racism in European and other ‘developed countries’ and their relations to the rest of the world.

To learn more about Michael and his work, click here.

To Listen to our podcast episode (from 2020) with Michael on racism, click here.

To listen to Michael speak to the General Assembly on 22 July this year at the Midterm review of the International Decade for People of African Descent, click here (you can see his address at 43 minutes)

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