Implementing ICERD: Using Human Rights to Demand Racial Justice
The US Human Rights Network is dedicated to advancing racial justice using a human rights framework. We provide educational resources, organize and coordinate groups in the use of human rights standards in particular those in the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD or more commonly, CERD). CERD is one of the few human rights treaties that the United States has ratified (formally accepted), and its standards are higher than those contained in domestic civil rights law and better suited to address contemporary forms of discrimination. The Network and its members are working to fully implement CERD by educating the public about U.S. Government obligations under the treaty, and engaging our membership in the effective use of the treaty to promote human rights at home.
CERD is a human rights treaty designed to protect individuals and groups from discrimination based on race, whether the discrimination is intentional, or is the result of seemingly neutral policies. The United States ratified CERD in 1994 and is therefore bound by all provisions of the treaty, which includes a periodic compliance review conducted by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (the Committee, and sometimes referred to as the CERD Committee).
CERD is monitored by the Committee (an independent body of experts), which reviews regular reports of States parties (governments) on how the treaty is being implemented. Governments must report initially one year after acceding to the Covention and then whenever the Committee requests (usually every four years). The Committee meets in Geneva and New York and holds three sessions per year.
The US Government is due to release its third report (which is a combination of its seventh, eigth and ninth periodic report in one document) to the Committee in the sping of 2013 (mostly likely in April). If this holds, the Network is prepared to hold training sessions on how to engage in the process through shadow reports starting in the summer of this year. These reports would be due in December 2013. The US would then be reviewed before the Committee in February and March of 2014. As part of the reporting process, but more generally as part of getting ICERD implemented in the United States, the Network will be launching a national call for the Obama Administration to adopt a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice on March 21st. This is also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. We call on and encourage organizations and individuals to support our action and become invovled in the ICERD reporting and implementation process. Learn More About the National Plan of Action for Racial Justice.
The USHRN CERD Project was created to ensure that the CERD Committee’s second review of the United States, which took place in Geneva in February 2008, included full and accurate information about the current human rights situation in the United States beyond the formal report submitted by the U.S. Government. The project’s key initial objective was to coordinate the production of a comprehensive shadow report that was presented to the CERD Committee during the review process. As a result of the USHRN’s coordination, and robust engagement from members and partners, the 2008 CERD review had an unprecedented level of participation from the social justice community. Many of the findings in the shadow report were directly reflected in the committee’s Concluding Observations.
Throughout 2008, the USHRN monitored the United States Government’s response to the concerns listed in the Concluding Observations in preparation for the one-year follow-up report that the government submitted to the CERD Committee in January 2009. The Network coordinated a response the U.S. follow-up report that the CERD committee received in June; other Network members submitted responses directly to the committee, also in June. Additional follow-up activities coordinated by the Network’s CERD Taskforce were planned throughout the year and informed the Universal Periodic Review process that took place in 2010.
Other CERD Project objectives include demonstrating the effectiveness of using an international human rights procedure to advance domestic advocacy agendas; educating the public about the human rights framework, particularly with regard to U.S. obligations to combat racial discrimination; increasing the capacity of domestic human rights and social justice organizations to use CERD and other treaties as well as the human rights framework to inform their advocacy; and strengthening the domestic human rights movement overall to better influence U.S. policy.
Other USHRN work on racial justice includes:
- The National Plan of Action for Racial Justice
- Durban Declaration and Plan of Action
The Network has an official listserv for the CERD project in order to facilitate the general planning and information sharing on the implementation of CERD in the U.S.