Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

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.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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