Visiting the United States to discuss strategies for protection of minority rights

I am currently in the United States on an International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) looking at how to strategise to better advocate for minority rights. I will be here for a total of three weeks, visiting Washington D.C., Montana, Oregon and San Francisco. Throughout the three weeks, we will be meeting State officials, NGOs and academics to discuss the current global situation in relation to minority rights and how we can better advocate for their protection.

At the moment I am in Washington D.C., part of a small group composed of other European human rights leaders. Our group is a mixed one, including human rights lawyers, an anti-discrimination official, an anti-Semitism educator, a Romani activist, a municipal consultant, a ‘LGBTIQ+ Muslim’ activist and a member of the Sami Parliament. We are all committed to advancing minority rights and so far our discussions – in meetings but also over beers and food – have exposed us all to the realities faced by the groups we work with and for.

The meetings have so far been excellent. We visited Howard University, a historically black university (HBCU). There, of course, we discussed the issues faced by African Americans within the broader context of the current human rights situation in the US. The Chair of the Department of Political Science, Mr. Ravi Perry, gave us a fascinating keynote address on the contextualisation of African American rights and challenges.

We had the opportunity to gain insights into the historical, social and political environment that continues to fuel institutionalised racism and rights-deprivation. Interestingly, Mr. Perry flagged the recent Supreme Court judgement that essentially denied Constitutional protection of the right to abortion, as also relevant in relation to the rights of African Americans and other ethnic minorities. Echoing a sentiment all too familiar to us in Europe, he looked at how the ‘fear’ of a rising immigrant population could have influenced the Court’s decision insofar as it could lead to a higher number of white babies and thereby, potentially, a measure to off set a rising non-white population.

Yesterday Mr. Clarence Lusane, also from Howard University, gave us a briefing on US federalism. By giving us a historical account of the US’ Constitutional development, he zoomed in on those issues that remain unregulated or somehow improperly regulated in the Constitution. Slavery, women’s rights, LGBTIQ+ rights, disability rights, appointment of Supreme Court judges, the almost king-like Constitutional power of the US President…we just didn’t have enough time to dig deeper!

So far it’s been a fabulous experience. We are being given tours of the city’s fantastic monuments, it’s wealth of impressive museums, as well as of the Government buildings, including the White House and Capitol.

This is an excellent opportunity for learning and exchange on strategies for protection of minority rights! aditus foundation is extremely grateful to the US Embassy in Malta and the US State Department for inviting me to participate. Updates to follow!