[JURIST] Doudou Diene [OAS profile; OHCHR backgrounder], the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, is visiting the US this week to gather first-hand information on issues of race relations [UNHCHR press release]. Diene's visit comes at the invitation of the US government. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] called the fact-finding mission [ACLU press release] "a critical opportunity to shed light on the pervasive and systemic problem of racism and discrimination in the United States." The US envoy to the UN, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad [official profile] welcomed Diene, but stated that he did not think the visit was necessary, and that the UN Human Rights Council [official website] should "focus on real problems elsewhere." Reuters has more.
In a report issued in November 2007 to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, Diene stated that increasing institutionalization of racist political ideologies and violent expressions of racism seriously threaten democracy and human rights [JURIST report]. Diene warned the UN [JURIST report] in March 2006 about a worldwide increase in racism and xenophobia, which were no longer confined to extremist groups but had become integral to mainstream democratic systems. Diene said that the fight against terrorism and other government initiatives had led to discriminatory immigration and asylum policies and a retreat from diversity and tolerance. Diene noted that racism was "commonplace" and ethnically and racially biased stances had become increasingly legitimized in intellectual discourse by respected scholars.