GENEVA (27 December 2021) – The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was in Paris, France, from 13 to 16 December on a
working visit aimed at assessing and better understanding the situation of peoples of African descent, and providing advice to assist them and other relevant stakeholders to protect their human rights, and further integrate them in the country’s development effort. During the mission, the human rights experts engaged with human rights institutions, UNESCO, and a broad range of civil society familiar with the development context.
Unlike country visits by United Nations Special Procedures, which take place at the invitation of the host government, and focus on fact-finding, diagnosis and recommendations, this was a working visit to examine and understand existing potentials and obstacles to the realization of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, that are specific to people of African descent, including the invisibility or disregard of present-day experiences that may stem from the legacies of colonialism and the trade and trafficking in enslaved Africans. This visit was also an opportunity to offer specific drivers of development that the State could use to promote improvements. For this purpose, the exercise was guided by the Working Group’s
Operational Guidelines on inclusion of people of African descent in the 2030 Agenda.
“The thoughtful leadership of UNESCO, in its “Slave Route Project”, has been a key facilitator and source of learning/knowledge to this endeavour, helping to shed light on the historical and legacy issues driving current experiences reported by people of African descent,” said Dominique Day, Chairperson of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.
“Although the Working Group did not meet at this stage representatives of the French Government, it will share its observations gathered during this visit to initiate a dialogue based on the human rights commitments of the country. France should consider the economic and development benefits of partnership with people of African descent,” said Day.
“Despite a narrative of meritocracy, people of African descent at varied stages of their educational and professional development (including those with significant success) reported that benediction by institutional gatekeepers was indispensable to access and recognition, even in the presence of significant skill and talent,” said Day.
“A racialized gatekeeping is contrary to human rights, imposes severe development costs to people of African descent individually and as a whole, and deprives France of a proven economic driver in multiple fields,” she added.
The delegation welcomed ongoing efforts in some areas to shed light on key barriers and to build networks to ensure people of African descent may access the formal and informal mechanisms necessary to their hiring and professional development.
The Working Group will share its preliminary observations with the French Government and propose to initiate a dialogue in the framework of an official country visit to the country.
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. Dominique Day (United States of America) current Chair-Rapporteur; Ms. Catherine Namakula (Uganda); Ms. Miriam Ekiudoko (Hungary); Ms. Barbara Reynolds (Guyana) and Mr. Sushil Raj (India).
The Working Group is part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the United Nations 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.
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