The UN has
adopted a large number of other international instruments
designed to protect human rights in specific circumstances
or to protect the rights of people particularly vulnerable
to abuse of their rights.
One of the first of these is the International Convention
on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
(1965) which entered into force on 4 January 1969 after
27 States had ratified or acceded to it.
The Convention provides a definition of racial discrimination,
and seeks to rid the world of the practice particularly in employment
Definition: Racial Discrimination
distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference
based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic
origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying
or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise,
on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental
freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural
or any other field of public life. "
I, Article I of the Convention)
State parties pledge:
- To engage in no
act or practice of racial discrimination against individuals,
groups of persons or institutions, and to ensure that
public authorities and institutions do likewise
- Not to sponsor,
defend or support racial discrimination by persons or
- To review government,
national and local policies and to amend or repeal laws
and regulations which create or perpetuate racial discrimination
- To prohibit and
put a stop to racial discrimination by persons, groups
- To encourage integrationist
or multiracial organisations and movements and other
means of eliminating barriers between races, as well
as to discourage anything which tends to strengthen
Presently more than three-quarters of the membership of the
United Nations have ratified this Convention.
However, almost every country has some kind
of declaration and reservation limiting its application. Many
rule out article 22, which would give the International Court
of Justice at The Hague the authority to settle disputes between
To read the declaration and reservations for each country click
The Convention established the Committee on
the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Each state is required
by article 9 to submit an initial report on the legislative,
judicial and administrative measures which it has adopted and
which give effect to the Convention.
The report must be submitted within one year
of a government's ratification of the treaty and thereafter
every two years. The Committee meets twice a year and may hold
A country may declare that it recognises the
competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications
from individuals claiming to be victims of a violation by that
country of any of the rights set forth in the treaty.
Only 25 states have made a declaration under
article 14 recognising the competence of the Committee on the
Elimination of Racial Discrimination to receive complaints from
individuals. No communication shall be received by the Committee
if it concerns a country which has not made such a declaration.
Supporters of the Convention argue that states
should allow this, as the Committee would not consider a complaint
from an individual unless all domestic remedies had first been
exhausted or unreasonably prolonged and therefore no other means
of recourse were available to the individual.
In 1993, the UN Commission on Human Rights
appointed a Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism,
Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
Diene, a former Senegalese diplomat, was appointed Special Rapporteur
in April of 2002.
As an independent expert, Diene examines institutionalised and indirect forms of racial discrimination against ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, and migrant workers and their families. He also looks into measures taken by governments to overcome racial discrimination. He reports to the Commission on Human Rights and the General Assembly annually.
Recently, the Commission of Human Rights created a group of five independent experts who study racial discrimination experienced by people of African descent.