AP FACT CHECK: UN didn't order US to pay slavery reparations

AP News
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Posted: Dec 16, 2016 12:06 PM

A widely shared story that claims the United Nations ordered the United States to immediately pay reparations to black Americans for slavery is false. A U.N. panel did urge the U.S. to study the topic and consider elements of a reparation plan, but the recommendations are not binding.

The story posted by the website Freedom Daily and shared on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks references a similar story by a website called Conservative Daily Post. Both stories use the headline: "Obama-Led U.N. Has Just Made It Official, U.S. To Immediately Pay Blacks 'Reparations.'"

The stories reference a report by the United Nations' Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, which is an independent U.N. panel that is not controlled or led by Obama. The five-member group presented a report to U.S. officials in August, and it was made public in September. U.N. bodies like the working group have no power to compel sovereign countries to act, but often point out instances where they believe countries are not upholding their own commitments.

The report urged the U.S. Congress to pass a bill introduced by Democratic U.S. Rep. John Conyers in January 2015 that would allow for the study of reparations. The panel also urged the U.S. to apply some elements of a plan for reparations adopted by a group of Caribbean nations in 2014, including a formal apology and financial support.

Congress referred Conyers' bill to committee and taken no other action. It also has not acted on proposals mentioned in the Caribbean reparations plan.

Obama has publicly stated his opposition to reparations, saying they could be a distraction toward the goal of improving the lives of black Americans. He said during his first campaign for the presidency in 2008 that instead of reparations, he would prefer to take positive action on issues that he said "disproportionately affect people of color," like health care and higher education.

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Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to this report.