In proclaiming this Decade, the international community is recognizing that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected. Around 200 million people identifying themselves as being of African descent live in the Americas. Many millions more live in other parts of the world, outside of the African continent.
As part of the awareness raising campaign for the International Decade of people of African Descent, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is organizing five regional meetings. Such meetings focus on trends, priorities and challenges at the national and regional levels to effectively implement the Decade’s Programme of Activities. The meetings are also an occasion to exchange good practices.
This second regional meeting provided an opportunity to reflect on ways and means that governments from Europe, Central Asia and North America in partnership with equality bodies, national human rights institutions, civil society, development agencies and regional organizations, may pursue to integrate the provisions of the Programmes of Activities in their policies, programmes and strategies tailored for people of African descent.
Participants: The meeting brought together Member States, United Nations specialized agencies and bodies, regional organizations, national human rights institutions, equality bodies and civil society representatives, particularly people of African descent from the region. Other Member States of the United Nations were invited to attend as observers. Experts on the topics were also invited to participate in the meeting.
Here is the agenda –
Organized by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
As prepaired – 23 November 2017, Excellencies, Distinguished panellists and participants, Colleagues and friends,
It is an honour to stand among you this morning, and to open this meeting devoted to the rights of people of African Descent. Across Europe, Central Asia and North America, people of African descent continue to endurepervasive discrimination in law and in practice, extending from neighbourhoods and schools to workplaces, political representation and justice. Whether they are descendants of the victims of slavery brought to North America and Europe against their will, or more recent migrants, people of African descent are frequently denied rights and experience exclusion, humiliation and impoverishment as a result of racial discrimination.
As the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us, all human beings are born equal in dignity and rights. There can be absolutely no justification whatsoever for the multiple and overlapping forms of discrimination which give women of African descent access to lower quality healthcare, and offer children of African descent poorer education in sub-standard schools; which deprive both men and women of African descent of an equal chance of decent employment; and which destine disproportionate numbers of people of African descent to a marginalised existence characterised by poverty and violence.
And yet across the regions of Europe, Central Asia and North America, expert missions by the Working Group on People of African Descent and related working groups; the Special Rapporteur on racism; the Special Rapporteur on Minorities; CERD; and experts from the European and Inter-American regional bodies have found extensive, sharply etched and deeply rooted discrimination in laws, policies, practices and institutions.
In the United States of America, with the largest population of people of African descent in this regional grouping, inequalities generated by generations of slavery and legal segregation endure, despite the achievements of the civil rights movement and the subsequent changes in the legal framework. People of African descent continue to face disproportionate poverty; unequal services; and even significantly lower average life expectancy.Women of African descent have unequal access to health services, leading to sharp inequalities in health outcomes for women and young children. I have also voiced my concern over practises of racial profiling and patterns of police violence in the United States, as well as the disproportionate imposition of capital punishment on people of African descent and other racial minorities. It is heartening to see people standing up for their human rights. In this context, I note and commend the leadership role of the Black Lives Matter movement in bringing attention to human rights violations, and I join its call for full accountability of police forces in all countries.
I also note serious concerns about systemic anti-Black racism in the Canadian criminal justice system, including evidence of extensive patterns of racial profiling by law enforcement.
I have spoken widely about my deep concerns regarding widespread discrimination against minorities across many European countries. In several countries, patterns of discrimination against people of African descent extend from education in sub-standard schools that feature offensive stereotyping and bullying by teachers and other children, to unequal health care and grossly unfair employment and housing practises. In multiple countries across Europe and Central Asia, heightened hostility towards people who are perceived to be foreigners or migrants is also having an increasing impact on people of African descent – including rising incidents of hate crimes and violence. As in North America, I am deeply concerned about discrimination in access to justice, treatment by police, and throughout justice systems. Racial profiling by law enforcement officials is widespread, with very disproportionate numbers of people of African descent being stopped by police in a number of countries, according to multiple studies.
A first step to tackle discrimination is to listen to the experiences of those who have been marginalized. Yet in numerous European countries, people of African descent remain under-represented in the media, let alone in political life. Their daily life, history and identity are largely erased from the national narrative and history books, and to some extent also from national cultural identity – despite the prominence of writers, thinkers and creators of African descent in every country.
As a student of history, I also deplore the widespread failure in many countries to acknowledge the reality and legacy of the slave-trade and subsequent colonial exploitation of Africa – including in terms of their contributions to the prosperity of many in the richer countries of the world. It is important to speak the truth about the past in order to be able to see clearly what is happening in the present; and it is essential to acknowledge the presence of every child and adult who is a part of a society’s unfolding story.
Discrimination is the deepest, most comprehensive obstruction to a human being’s rights. Its’ scars on individuals and generations run deep. But discrimination also harms all of society. It deepens mistrust, casting suspicion on all sides and tearing apart the social fabric. It creates grievances which corrode every sense of belonging and shared values.
It is urgent and important that such forces be turned around – both for the sake of the individuals concerned, and for the values and vitality of the countries in which we live.
The International Decade for people of African descent is about taking down the walls between communities, and empowering every member of every society to live their lives free from inequality and prejudice. We – all human beings – are equal; and therefore should enjoy an equal right to dignity. We can only ever create just and peaceful societies for all, when nobody is subjected to the dishonour of prejudice and segregation.Because every country in the world needs to be able to draw on the skills and contributions of every member. Because inclusion builds truly strong societies – societies that are strong because they are fair.
Seeking an end to the injustice and the humiliation of discrimination is at the core of my mandate and the work of my Office. We are developing strategies that support the Decade, empowering people of African Descent, enabling recognition of their rights and helping to achieve justice. Our work includes supporting national efforts to enhance the rights of people of African Descent, a fellowship programme, the provision of small grants to communities, in addition to reporting on various thematic aspects of racial discrimination suffered by people of African descent. The UN system is also seeking to raise awareness and spark concrete action. But we can and will do better in the next seven years of the Decade. Our advocacy needs to become more powerful; our guidance more specific and persuasive; and we must increase the involvement of people of African descent themselves in our actions to implement the Decade and end discrimination.
I look forward to fruitful discussions over the next two days. I assure you that my Office and I will continue to voice our concerns, and to advocate for and assist in building State policies and practises which uphold the equal rights of all people.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights with Opal Tometi
We proposed a plan to prepare regional studies on the problems of racial discrimination faced by people of African descent living in the diaspora such as those done in our lead city of Cincinnati. Here 1,500 African Americans on June 11th 2016 came together as the Black Agenda. It is a movement of individuals and organizations working cooperatively to improve the lives of black Cincinnatians. The purpose is to bring the black community of Cincinnati together to prioritize our challenges as a race. Leaders in attendance drew on all relevant information from Governments, non-governmental organizations and other relevant sources such as The State of Black Cincinnati 2015: Two Cities is a comprehensive report published by the Greater Cincinnati Urban League and its parent, the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio.
At the Black Agenda FAU brought to the table the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) report on the findings of the hearing convened by CCR at the University of Cincinnati in May, 2003 on the Cincinnati Boycott. The Boycott was started because of institutionalized racism by a major local business. It grew with the fatal police shooting of an unarmed teenager, Timothy Thomas, which triggered the race riots. The Cincinnati riots of 2001 were a series of civil disorders which took place in and around the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of downtown Cincinnati, Ohio from April 9 to 13, 2001. The riots were the largest urban disturbance in the United States since the 1992 Los Angeles riots. A subsequent community boycott of downtown businesses had an estimated adverse impact of $10 million on the area (that figure is from Rucker, Walter C.; Upton, James N. (2006), Encyclopedia of American Race Riots). Based on the two hotels that closed, the 5 and 4 star restaurants that closed and major event and entertainment cancellations in solidarity FAU estimates the damage at $200M.
This is based on the partially successful African American and ally Boycott in Cincinnati. Ron Daniels JD, then Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. CCR held a one day forum designed to hear recommendations and strategies for resolving the city’s conflicts. One of the goals, he said, is to assess the progress being made toward ending the then 22-month-old boycott. “This boycott has emerged as one of the most widely watched struggles for racial and social justice in this country,” Daniels said. “The Center for Constitutional Rights is eager to investigate the root causes that led to the rebellion and subsequent boycott, as well as explore equitable ways and means for achieving justice and reconciliation.”
We will conduct a multi-day event that uses modern technology to achieve the same.
Included in each meeting with be a community forum based on public safety. We do so based on our work as part of the class in a federal lawsuit that lead to a national model used by the Dept. of Justice during the Bush Obama administrations. On December 17, 2002, Susan B. Dlott United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of Ohio appointed Saul A. Green and a team of eight policing experts (the Monitor Team) to monitor compliance with, and implementation of: the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), between the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), the City of Cincinnati (City) and the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD); and the Collaborative Agreement (CA), between the Plaintiffs (African Americans), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the City and the CPD. During six years of monitoring, the Monitor Team published 21 quarterly reports that chronicle the state of compliance by the parties with the terms of the MOA and CA. The MOA and CA were born out of a unique Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process developed by Judge Dlott that came to be known as the Cincinnati Police-Community Collaborative. We will use this as the basis to propose measures to ensure full and effective access to the justice system by people of African descent.
The city of Cincinnati is in a period of refreshing not only the aforementioned Collaborative Agreement but the central urban planning document, called Plan Cincinnati. Plan Cincinnati signals a significant shift in planning in the United States. Some jurisdictions have moved forward with pieces that support quality of life and livability in an urban context, but paired with the Land Development Code, Form-Based Code, and other initiatives, Plan Cincinnati represents a truly comprehensive sea-change. This is a plan that can show the nation how to recreate urban form in contemporary ways in light of the people and economy of a 21st century place.
FAU’s Chairman played a role from 2009 through 2012 in creating Plan CIncinnati. Plan Cincinnati was designed to represent the voice of the people of Cincinnati and guide the future of our city. After three years, hundreds of meetings, thousands of conversations, and countless ideas bandied back and forth by community members, business people, city leaders, students from elementary school to college, and property owners, we found that Cincinnatians had a lot to say. The problem was that not many African American citizens had a say in the process.
We will use the Plan Cincinnati Organizational Oversight Model with the addition of a African American Steering Committee representing all facets of African American community organizations, businesses, non-profits, and institutions. Much of the work developing the goals and actions steps of in the Cincinnati Plan will be used in all meetings nationally based on the Universal Periodic Review of the United States in 2015 where our 2014 Civil society joint venture submission was based on United Nations protocols used by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and responsive of the 10 areas of human rights focus as put forth by the US State Dept.. These included (1) civil rights, ethnic, and racial discrimination; (2) criminal justice issues; (3) indigenous issues; 4) national security; (5)immigration; (6) labor and trafficking; (7) economic, social and cultural rights and measures; (8) the environment; (9) domestic implementation of human rights, and; (10) treaties and international human rights mechanisms. In addition, we will have working groups in keeping with those we proposed during African Week 2017 –
(1) Peace and Security;
(2) Political Affairs;
(3) Infrastructure and Energy;
(4) Social Affairs and Health;
(5) Human Resources, Science, and Technology;
(6) Trade and Industry;
(7) Rural Economy and Agriculture;
(8) Economic Affairs;
(9) Women and Gender;
(10) Cross-Cutting Programmes
Together these groups, using electronic technology, would submit recommendations on the design, implementation, and enforcement of effective measures to eliminate racial profiling of people of African descent through community benefit agreements. Currently FAU is part to a $30B Community Benefit Agreement (CBA) driven by our national organizational partner the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and its grassroots member organizations like Friends of the African Union Chamber of Commerce create opportunities for people to build wealth. We work with community leaders, policymakers and financial institutions to champion fairness in banking, housing and business. Since 2016, banks have pledged more than $80 billion in lending and philanthropy through community benefits agreements negotiated with NCRC
Included on this page is an example from the $80 Billion in current Federal Reserve Bank based Community Benefit Agreements (CBA). FAU Chamber of Commerce is a signature to the $30B Fifth THird Bank CBA and at Africa Week we talked to Citibank about creating one based on this framework.
In 2018 we would work to create a debt instrument that follows these CBA’s framework – mortgages, business, community development, philanthropy, inclusion, and multicultural marketing.
At the Third Meeting we will intergrate our understanding and actions under the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action adopted at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. It remains the only instructive outcome of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and which is the tool used that prescribes comprehensive measures and remedies for the effective combating of all scourges of racism at all levels.
We Recalling Human Rights Council resolutions 5/1, on institution-building of the Council, and 5/2, on the Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the Council, of 18 June 2007, and stressing that the mandate holder shall discharge his/her duties in accordance with those resolutions and the annexes thereto;
Placing faith in the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban in 2001, which adopted the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Paragraph 7 of the Durban Programme of Action specifically “requests the Commission on Human Rights to consider establishing a working group or other mechanism of the United Nations to study the problems of racial discrimination faced by people of African descent living in the African Diaspora (which by our count is over 300M people worldwide including Africans not in their country of birth) and make proposals for the elimination of racial discrimination against people of African descent”.
Understanding the Mandate of the The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established in 2002 by the Commission on Human Rights resolution 2002/68 (as a Special Procedure) and is composed of five independent experts. The mandate was subsequently renewed by the Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights Council in its resolutions (CHR 2003/30, 2008/HRC/RES/9/14, 2011/HRC/RES/18/28, 2014/HRC/RES/27/25). In 2008, Human Rights Council resolution 9/14 entrusted the Working Group the following obligations:
(a) To study the problems of racial discrimination faced by people of African descent living in the diaspora and, to that end, gather all relevant information from Governments, non-governmental organizations and other relevant sources, including through the holding of public meetings with them;
(b) To propose measures to ensure full and effective access to the justice system by people of African descent;
(c) To submit recommendations on the design, implementation and enforcement of effective measures to eliminate racial profiling of people of African descent;
(d) To make proposals on the elimination of racial discrimination against Africans and people of African descent in all parts of the world;
(e) To address all the issues concerning the well-being of Africans and people of African descent contained in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action;
(f) To elaborate short-, medium- and long-term proposals for the elimination of racial discrimination against people of African descent, bearing in mind the need for close collaboration with international and development institutions and the specialized agencies of the United Nations system to promote the human rights of people of African descent through, inter alia, the following activities:
(i) Improving the human rights situation of people of African descent by devoting special attention to their needs through, inter alia, the preparation of specific programmes of action;
(ii) Designing special projects, in collaboration with people of African descent, to support their initiatives at the community level and to facilitate the exchange of information and technical know-how between these populations and experts in these areas;
(iii) Liaising with financial and developmental institutional and operational programmes and specialized agencies of the United Nations, with a view to contribute to the development programmes intended for people of African descent by allocating additional investments to health systems, education, housing, electricity, drinking water and environmental control measures and promoting equal opportunities in employment, as well as other affirmative or positive measures and strategies within the human rights framework.
In 2014 at the 40th meeting of the Human Rights Council (HRC) on 26 September 2014) with resolution 27/25, the HRC further extended the mandate of the Working Group for three years (2014 to 2017) –
In that request it further “5. Requests States, non-governmental organizations (such as your organization Virgin Islands Youth Advocacy Coalition and Friends of the African Union), relevant human rights treaty bodies, special procedures and other mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, and national human rights institutions, international financial and development institutions, specialized agencies, programmes and funds of the United Nations to collaborate with the Working Group, including by, inter alia, providing it with the necessary information and, where possible, reports in order to enable the Working Group to carry out its mandate, including with regard to field missions;
6. Requests the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide the Working Group with all the human, technical and financial assistance necessary for the sustainable and effective fulfilment of its mandate;
7. Recalls the establishment of a voluntary fund to provide additional resources for, inter alia, the participation of people of African descent, representatives of developing countries, especially the least developed countries, non-governmental organizations and experts in the open-ended sessions of the Working Group, and invites States to contribute to that fund.