Thursday, July 2, 2020


The advancement of racial justice within a human rights framework has been an integral component of the work of the US Human Rights Network (USHRN) since its inception. The inextricable link between racial justice and human rights was highlighted over the last 18 months as USHRN member organizations focused their efforts on U.S. compliance with the International Convention to Eliminate all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) – one of only three major human rights treaties that the U.S. has signed and ratified, thus making ICERD the ”law of the land.” ICERD provides broad, objective legal standards through which to view disparate impacts of government policy and the intersections of race, gender, and class.

With these additional layers of legal protections, governments that ratify this human rights treaty are obligated to take proactive measures to end racial discrimination in all its forms. USHRN initiatives resulted in the submission of a 700-page report last year to the Committee to Eliminate Racial Discrimination (CERD), the United Nations body tasked with the responsibility to monitor compliance with ICERD, that documented U.S. failure to comply with the terms of the treaty in such areas as criminal justice and environmental protection. As a result of this report and the advocacy efforts of the USHRN, the CERD in its concluding observations cited more than 30 specific violations of the terms of treaty, and asked that the U.S. government submit a follow-up report to the committee within a year.

March of 2009 marked the anniversary of the CERD’s concluding observations. Since then, the U.S. has taken a coveted seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, yet the administration has also backed out of participating in the Durban Review Conference and moved forward with a trillion-dollar economic stimulus package that offers few prospects to close the wealth gap or create economic opportunities for the most needy and vulnerable citizens. Within the next year the U.S. will be subject to the new Universal Periodic Review process, and activists must be prepared to take the government to task for its lack of action to rectify problems of racial justice and discrimination.

In an effort to facilitate a national network/body dedicated to racial justice and human rights, we are reaching out to you because you have demonstrated a consistent commitment to those issues. Moreover, we have come recognize that a racial justice agenda – informed by the moral and legal obligations represented by ICERD and the broader human rights framework – will not become a centerpiece of national discourse or appear on the agenda of decision-makers without an organized force willing to organize, educate and agitate for that agenda. Nor can we expect traditional civil or human rights organizations to take a lead role domestically without a push from the grassroots level.

During the last 12 months we have convened several meetings at which organizations have voiced the need for a collective and coordinated process. As a result, the USHRN is prepared to help facilitate the process of coordinating a national body that will assist in implementation of ICERD and support efforts around the country to make the connections between racial justice and human rights.

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