By Jaya Ramachandran
GENEVA (IDN) – The United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent will undertake its first official visit to Germany from February 20 to 27 to study the human rights situation of people of African descent in the country.
The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established on April 25, 2002 by the then Commission on Human Rights, following the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban in 2001. It is composed of five independent experts: Ricardo A. Sunga III (the Philippines), current Chair-Rapporteur; Michal Balcerzak (Poland); Mireille Fanon Mendes-France (France), Sabelo Gumedze (South Africa) and Ahmed Reid (Jamaica).
The 2001 World Conference 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 and make proposals for the elimination of racial discrimination against people of African descent".
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 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.
Explaining the purpose of the mission, Ricardo Sunga, who currently heads the expert group, said: “We will gather information on any forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, Afrophobia and related intolerance, in order to assess the overall human rights situation of people of African descent in Germany.”
The Group’s delegation, which visits the country at the invitation of the Government, will travel to Berlin, Dessau, Dresden, Frankfurt, Cologne, Wiesbaden, Dusseldorf and Hamburg, to meet representatives of the Government, relevant communities, civil society organisations and individuals working on issues of racism and racial discrimination.
Sunga, together with human rights experts Mireille Fanon Mendes-France and Sabelo Gumedze, will also study the measures taken to prevent racial discrimination and protect victims of racism and hate crimes, as well as mechanisms for the protection, integration and inclusion of migrants and refugees, intersectionality, and responses to multiple forms of discrimination, that specific groups of African descent may face.
“The visit will allow us to identify challenges as well as good practices on the basis of which we will provide concrete recommendations to fight racism and racial discrimination”, Sunga said. The Working Group will present a report containing its findings and recommendations to the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2017.
The experts will also promote the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), which aims both to highlight the contribution of people of African descent to societies and to strengthen national, regional and international cooperation to ensure the human rights of people of African descent are respected, protected and fulfilled. [IDN-InDepthNews – 16 February 2017]
Photo: Launch of the International Decade for People of African Descent on 10 December 2014 at United Nations Headquarters, New York. Photo: Martin Dixon.
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