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UN expert group on people of African descent launches fact-finding visit to the United States

WASHINGTON / GENEVA (15 January 2016) – The United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent will carry out a fact-finding visit to the United States from 19 to 29 January 2016, at the invitation of the Government. The Group’s delegation will travel to Washington DC, Baltimore, Jackson (Mississippi), Chicago and New York City.

“We will gather first-hand information about the current human rights situation of African-Americans, and follow up on the recommendations to fight racism we made during our last visit to the country in 2010,” said human rights expert Mireille Fanon Mendes-France, who currently heads the expert panel.

The delegation, which also includes human rights experts Sabelo Gumedze and Ricardo A. Sunga III, will address current concerns, and assess progress made in combatting racial discrimination, Afrophobia, xenophobia, and protecting and promoting the human rights of African- Americans.

The experts will also promote the International Decade for People of African Descent*, which runs from 2015 to 2024 and aims both to highlight the contribution of people of African descent to societies and strengthen national, regional and international cooperation to ensure the human rights of people of African descent are respected, promoted and fulfilled.

During its eleven-day visit, the experts will meet with Government officials at Federal, state and local levels, representatives of civil society organizations, as well as academics, practitioners and individual African-Americans. Following its visit, the Working Group will present a report containing its findings and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2016.

A press conference to share the delegation’s preliminary findings will be held on Friday 29 January at 12:00 noon in the UN Information Center in Washington DC (1775 K ST NW, Suite 400, Washington DC 20006). Access to the press conference is strictly limited to journalists. RSVPs are required to access the building.

(*) The International Decade of People of African Descent: http://www.un.org/en/events/africandescentdecade/

The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established on 25 April 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, following the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. It is composed of five independent experts:  Ms. Mireille Fanon Mendes-France (France), current Chair-Rapporteur; Mr. Ahmed Reid (Jamaica); Mr. Sabelo Gumedze (South Africa); Mr. Ricardo A. Sunga III (the Philippines) and Mr. Michal Balcerzak (Poland).

The Working Group is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/WGAfricanDescent/Pages/WGEPADIndex.aspx

Check the Working Group’s 2010 report on the United States (A/HRC/15/18):  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/WGAfricanDescent/Pages/CountryVisits.aspx  

UN Human Rights, country page – United States:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/LACRegion/Pages/USIndex.aspx

For inquiries and media requests, please contact:
In Washington (during the visit, and for RSVPs for the Press Conference): Deborah Deyoung (deyoung@un.org / +1 202 331 8670)
In Geneva: Christina Saunders (+41 22 9289197 or 079 444 4355 / csaunders@ohchr.org) or write to africandescent@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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