Jul 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

UN will establish panel to investigate systemic racism in policing

Photo of a crowd of protesters and a sign with a painting of George Floyd's profile
Black Lives Matter supporters and others march across the Brooklyn Bridge to honor George Floyd on the one year anniversary of his death on May 25, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Spencer Platt via Getty Images

The United Nations announced Tuesday plans to form a panel of experts to examine the root causes and effects of systemic racism in policing around the world, including the legacies of slavery and colonialism, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The move follows a year of heightened attention on police brutality against Black people, and comes after a UN human rights report detailed the need for reparatory justice and accountability.

Details: The panel, comprised of three experts in law enforcement and human rights, is expected have a three-year mandate for its investigation and to make recommendations for actionable change.

  • The other side: Britain and other former European colonial powers pushed back against the proposed panel, arguing that several UN entities are already responding to societal problems related to race and that colonialism-focused probes could divert attention from addressing contemporary racism.

Between the lines: "Civil rights groups see the resolution as a litmus test of the Biden administration’s readiness to follow through on campaign promises to tackle racism and how it will engage with the human rights council," the Times writes.

Worth noting: The investigation is the result of a resolution by African countries following UN findings that described systemic barriers to education, health care, employment, housing, clean water, political participation and other fundamental rights.

  • "[A] main part of the problem is that many people believe the misconceptions that the abolition of slavery, the end of the transatlantic trade and colonialism have removed the racially discriminatory structures built by those practices; [but] we found that this is not true," the UN Human Rights Office’s Mona Rishmawi said in a statement when the report was released in June.
  • For people of African descent, these legacies are "a part of their daily life and the daily reality of dehumanization, marginalization and denial of their rights."

The big picture: Protests in response to George Floyd's killing in Minneapolis last May triggered mass demonstrations around the world.

What to watch: Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. are working on a police reform bill.

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