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 2021, the Biden Administration submitted the government’s long overdue “periodic reports,” and the CERD Committee has scheduled the U.S. review for April 2022, in Geneva.
Link to the U.S. State Department CERD page.
A CERD Timeline
In March, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing released an extraordinary advisory report on “Spatial Segregation and the Right to Adequate Housing,” covering conditions and consequences of racial and ethnic segregation around the world, with important implications for the United States’ review before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
The CERD Committee has indicated that the United States will be reviewed at the Committee’s August or November 2022 session in Geneva
NGO “Shadow Reports” are due approximately one month prior to the scheduled review.
U.S. Submission to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Periodic Reports on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (United States Department of State, June 2, 2021)
The United States was due to submit its next Periodic Report to the U.N Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in the fall of 2017.
Following a 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 then-Policy Counsel Megan Haberle reflected on the CERD Committee session in an article in Poverty & Race, “A Letter from Geneva.”
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 Committee’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! http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/210817.pdf
PRRAC worked with the CERD Task Force, a joint committee of the U.S. Human Rights Network and the Human Rights at Home Campaign. We helped 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 – a new date will be “sometime” in 2012, we suspect the Obama Administration may even be delaying the report until after the election.
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
- CERD Committee Concluding Observations (March 2008)
- Report from Geneva (February 2008)
- CERD Committee List of Issues
- CERD Health Report: Unequal Health Outcomes in the United States
- CERD Health Report: Executive Summary
- CERD Housing Report: Residential Segregation and Housing Discrimination in the United States
2005 – 2007
- CERD Overview
- PRRAC Submission to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Housing (October 2005)
- PRRAC Submission to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (April 2005)
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.
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 raised 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:
- The Right to Education
- Racial Health Disparities and Discrimination
- The Right to Adequate Housing
- Report on the State of Treaty Ratification
- Report on Racial Discrimination and Civil Rights
- S. Human Rights Network Overarching Report
- PRRAC Policy Statement for March 21, 2010 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (March 2010)