Press Release

IACHR Organizes Conferences on Situation of People of African Descent in the Americas

March 1, 2011

Washington, D.C. — The Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and against Racial Discrimination of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), together with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the nongovernmental organization Global Rights-Partners for Justice, will hold a regional conference to mark the International Year for People of African Descent.

Issues to be discussed at the meeting will include affirmative action policies, collective rights, and discrimination in justice systems, including the influence of racial profiling, police brutality, and the discriminatory enforcement of criminal law in the judicial process. The IACHR hopes this regional event will make it possible to identify and raise awareness about the main challenges for people of African descent in the Americas, as well as to share information on best practices.

The conference, which will take place March 14, 2011, in the main OAS building in Washington, will include the participation of leaders of African descent, representatives of the OAS Member States and observer countries, and members of nongovernmental organizations from around the region. The United Nations declared 2011 to be the International Year for People of African Descent, a declaration that was recognized by the OAS General Assembly.

The Office of the Rapporteur on the Rights of Afro-Descendants and against Racial Discrimination was created in early 2005 to encourage, systematize, strengthen, and consolidate the Commission's work on the rights of people of African descent and against racial discrimination. Since its creation, the Commission has closely monitored and studied the situation of Afro-descendants in the Americas, identified priority challenges faced by people of African descent, and developed case law in this area. Since January 2010, the Rapporteur has been Commissioner María Silvia Guillén.

The IACHR hopes the regional conference will help to expand awareness within the member countries and political bodies of the OAS with regard to States' obligation to respect and guarantee the human rights of people of African descent.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this matter. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in a personal capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 15/11