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Nelson Mandela voting for the first time after 27 years in jail

157 countries had ratified this treaty by Mar 11 2001

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Treaty in full

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Declaration and reservations

University of Oregon site on this Convention


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Elimination of Racial Discrimination


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.

Check what your country has ratified

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 and education.

Definition: Racial Discrimination

Any 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. "
(Part 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 organisations

  • 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 and organizations

  • 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 racial division.

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 States.

To read the declaration and reservations for each country click here.

Monitoring Racism

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 special sessions.

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.

Independent Expert

In 1993, the UN Commission on Human Rights appointed a Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

Doudou 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.


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