International Human Rights and U.S. Civil Rights Policy The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) holds that its signing countries “particularly condemn racial segregation and apartheid and undertake to prevent, prohibit and eradicate all practices of this nature in territories under their jurisdiction”. CERD further requires signing countries to ". . .take effective measures to review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever it exists." In 2007-2008, PRRAC worked with the U.S. Human Rights Network to host two CERD working groups, on minority health disparities; and housing segregation/discrimination. Our reports were submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 2008 for its review of U.S. compliance (and were reflected to a substantial degree in the CERD Committee Concluding Observations). This work has continued with new advocacy initiatives in 2009 and 2010 to ensure that the U.S. lives up to its international human rights commitments. In 2010, PRRAC led the development of an NGO report on Education for the Universal Periodic Review (see details below). PRRAC currently serves on the National CERD Implementation Task Force, and is assisting in the preparation for the 2013 U.S. CERD Compliance Review.
A CERD Timeline2013The U.S. is preparing to submit its first report since 2008 to the U.N. CERD Committee later this spring, and civil society groups are preparing to respond. PRRAC is working with the CERD Task Force, a joint committee of the U.S. Human Rights Network and the Human Rights at Home Campaign. We are helping to coordinate shadow reports on U.S. education policy and U.S. fair housing policy.
CERD treaty notice (November 2011): the U.S has delayed submission of its periodic report on compliance with the race discrimination treaty – new date will be “sometime” in 2012, we suspect the Obama Administration may even be delaying the report until after the election. For a full update on U.S. delays in treaty reporting, go to http://ushrnetwork.org/content/pressrelease/un-mechanisms-update-ushrn.
PRRAC has continued its work with the CERD Sub-committee and is dedicated to advocacy to encourage the government to respond to the CERD Committee’s Concluding Observations from 2008 which call on the government to, among other things, develop and implement an action plan in order to ensure that CERD is fully operational throughout the United States.
In the fall of 2009, we built on our prior work (in 2007-08) with CERD, by participating in the November fact-finding visit to the US of the
"UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing." Click here to see PRRAC’s testimony.
In December, we presented written testimony on US CERD compliance to the Human Rights and the Law Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee – in what was apparently the first-ever Senate hearing on US compliance with the human treaties it has ratified. Click here for the webcast of the hearing. Click here for a list of testimony submitted.
20082005 - 2007
The ICCPRIn 2012, PRRAC supported the U.S. Human Rights Network’s (USHRN) review of U.S. compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by preparing a report on K-12 education issues implicated by the treaty. Our report (or “List of Issues”) was compiled by the USHRN, along with 28 other submissions and submitted to the chair of the U.N. Human Rights Committee in December.
See the PRRAC report here and the USHRN submission here
The Universal Periodic Review2011
March 18 marked the return of the U.S. State Department to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, to respond to a lengthy list of issues raised by the Council in its recent “Universal Periodic Review” (UPR), assessing U.S. compliance with the various human rights treaties it has signed and/or ratified. In preparation for the upcoming presentation in Geneva, State Department and other federal officials recently held a series of meetings with civil society representatives to review the issues rasied by the Human Rights Council. PRRAC staff presented at two of these briefings, the first at HUD, and the second at the White House Conference Center. We focused in particular on U.S. compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, in particular the lack of progress made in responding to the 2008 conclusions and recommendations of the U.N. CERD Committee on U.S. housing and education policy (read PRRAC’s statement).
PRRAC also recently joined a letter from civil and human rights groups asking the U.N. CERD Committee to urge the U.S. government to adopt a national plan of action for CERD implementation, with full and meaningful consultation with civil society and affected communities and in collaboration with local and state governments. The plan of action is one of several key 2008 recommendations of the CERD Committee that have not yet been adopted, and the U.S. is scheduled to return to the CERD Committee in 2012 for a further review. PRRAC plans to join with other NGOs in providing the U.N. with an assessment of U.S. progress in improving fair housing, educational equity, and minority health disparities in the ensuing four years.
In November 2010 the United Nations Human Rights Council began a review of U.S. compliance with its international human rights commitments known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The UPR process takes place every 4 years and culminates in a report issued by the Human Rights Council following document submission and a three-hour question and answer session in which any U.N. member is permitted to ask questions or make recommendations. Governments as well as non-governmental organizations and stakeholders are permitted to participate in this process by submitting documentation to the Council, lobbying and advocacy efforts. PRRAC is participating in the process in conjunction with the U.S. Human Rights Network and with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and we took the lead in drafting the UPR report on the Right to Education, on behalf of a coalition of education advocacy groups.
At the end of April, 2010, over 24 coalition reports were submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council for review. PRRAC participated in or was a signatory to the following reports:On November 5, 2010, the U.S. underwent its Universal Periodic Review in front of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The U.S. delegation was headed by Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organizations at the Department of State and was attended by Harold Koh and Michael Posner.
The review focused primarily on issues concerning treaty ratification, criminal justice, immigration, and national security. While these issues were at the forefront, concerns over discrimination were not ignored. The Draft report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review included a summary of recommendations made to the United States by other countries. Some of these recommendations included a focus on the problems of discrimination in the United States, including the following:
- Review, reform and adequate its federal and state laws, in consultation with civil society, to comply with the protection of the right to non-discrimination established by the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, especially in the areas of employment, housing, health, education and justice (Bolivia);
- Take legislative and administrative measures to address a wide range of racial discrimination and inequalities in housing, employment and education (DPRK);
- End all forms of racial discrimination in terms of housing, education, health care, social security and labor (Libyan Arab Jamahiriya);
- Encourage the promotion of equal socio-economic as well as educational opportunities for all both in law and in fact, regardless of their ethnicity, race, religion, national origin, gender or disability (Thailand).
The United States will have an opportunity to respond to these recommendations in advance of an outcome report which will be adopted by the Council at its sixteenth session in the spring of 2011.
Draft Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review