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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."

A CERD Timeline

The United States is expected to submit its next Periodic Report to the U.N Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in the fall of 2017. Following a July public CERD consultation with the State Department, the
ACLU submitted a letter detailing the United States’ continuing failure to comply with the treaty and with the remedial recommendations of the 2014 Committee report.


CERD Committee Concluding Observations (August 2014) The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s “ Concluding Observations” on U.S. compliance with the CERD treaty reflected many of the concerns raised by the delegation of U.S. civil and human rights groups that came to Geneva to testify. There were particularly strong findings on housing and school segregation in the U.S. and the importance of addressing segregation more aggressively – drawing on our shadow reports and testimony (see pages 6-7). PRRAC Policy Counsel Megan Haberle reflected on the CERD Committee session in an article in Poverty & Race.

The U.N. CERD Committee’s review of U.S. Compliance with the CERD treaty took place on August 13-15 in Geneva. PRRAC collaborated with other civil rights organizations on several “shadow reports” addressing the United States’ progress in addressing the CERD Commmittee’s 2008 recommendations:

Discrimination and Segregation in Housing: Continuing Lack of Progress in United States Compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, July 2014)

CERD Shadow Report: Education in the United States and the Federal Responsibility to Reduce School Segregation and Address the Achievement Gap (Report to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, June 2014)


June 2013: U.S. Periodic Report to the CERD Committee finally released!

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.

“Call for a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice” (March 2013)

Letter to President Obama

National Plan of Action “Template”

Sign the National Plan of Action petition!


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

PRRAC 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.


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.

2008 CERD Review



PRRAC joined other national civil rights organizations in a “shadow report” to the U.N. on separate and unequal education in the United States – “Still Segregated: How Race and Poverty Stymie the Right to Education”


In 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 Review


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. 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 and the U.N.'s Draft Report).


In 2010 the United Nations Human Rights Council began a review of U.S. compliance with all of its international human rights commitments known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

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:Draft Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review


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