Closing the Gap: The Federal Role in Ensuring Human Rights at the State and Local Level
A central issue in the United States’ failure to fully recognize and implement human rights is the absence of a domestic human rights infrastructure that reaches all levels of government. It is lacking transparent, institutionalized and effective mechanisms to facilitation the translation of international human rights law into domestic education and practice, leaving many state and local actors unaware of obligations under international human rights treaties. Participation in the promotion and protection of human rights is further impeded by resource and staffing constraints at the state and local level.
The protection of human rights requires concerted and coordinated government action in conjunction with community partnerships. While some human rights agencies and state and local decision-makers have taken important steps—including initiatives to address and eliminate discrimination, human rights education efforts, and the explicit incorporation of international human rights standards into local law and policy—these efforts remain ad hoc, patchwork, and vulnerable to elimination through budget cuts.
A more robust discussion is necessary regarding how the federal government supports, incentivizes or coordinates state and local actors to comply with international human rights treaty standards through education, training, and other means. For example, there is no publicly available information regarding the mandate or activities of a newly established Equality Working Group or its relationship to Executive Order 13107.