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Democracy, Human Rights, Refugees: Colombia and United States To Hold First Meeting on Racial and Ethnic Equality Action Plan

The United States and Colombia will hold the first plenary meeting on the U.S.-Colombia Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality on June 12 and 13 at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson and Colombian Vice Minister for Participation and Rights Equality Aníbal Fernández de Soto will chair the meeting.

The U.S.-Colombia Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality recognizes ethnic and racial diversity as a crucial element in the development of democratic and multicultural societies like those in Colombia and the United States. The Action Plan encourages greater cooperation and understanding, including sharing of best practices and mutually beneficial technical exchange, to create opportunities for racial and ethnic minorities in areas such as access to education, health, housing, and employment. To facilitate these exchanges and partnerships, Colombia and the United States established a two-part framework consisting of a Steering Committee and a plenary meeting.

The Steering Committee, which held its first meeting in June 2010 in Bogota, shared government experiences and information to improve access to education, employment, and democratic institutions, and to preserve the culture of ethnic groups in the United States and Colombia.

The June 12-13 plenary session will bring together civil society, the private sector, and the governments of both countries to address a range of topics, including education, culture, sports, and economic opportunities. The plenary session will frame existing cooperation between the United States and Colombia and provide space for experts from the private and public sectors to share best practices, exchange information, and develop new initiatives that will strengthen racial and ethnic equality in both countries. The goal of the plenary session will be to develop a comprehensive work plan to map programming priorities on these issues for 2013-2014.

The U.S. Government delegation will include the U.S. Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Departments of Education and Labor, the White House Initiatives on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Native American and Alaska Native Education, the Department of Commerce International Trade Agency and Minority Business Development Agency, the Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museums of African American History and Culture and the American Indian, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Inter-American Foundation. The Colombian delegation will include the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Culture, and Commerce; the Presidential Program for the Afro-Colombian Population; and Colombia’s national sports agency, Coldeportes. In addition, civil society and private sector representatives from a wide range of organizations in the United States and Colombia will participate.