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UN committee finds racial discrimination still prevalent in America

After the U.S. Human Rights Network presented information on continuing racial discrimination and human rights violations, the committee submitted a report with recommendations for the U.S. government.

The 85th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) released its concluding observations on human rights abuses and discrimination in America today. The committee also provided recommendations for actionable steps the United States can take to address them. 

The CERD committee’s report, which is intended to serve as a road-map for new laws and policies to improve the country’s rights record, detailed more than twenty areas of unacceptable racial discrimination in the United States. The observations call for the U.S. Government to “prohibit racial discrimination in all its forms in federal and state legislation, including indirect discrimination, covering all fields of law and public life.”

Joshua Cooper, director of the Hawaiʻi Institute for Human Rights, was at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, participating as part of the U.S. Human Rights Network and contributing to the Working Groups on Environmental Justice and Indigenous Peoples.

During the two day session Cooper, a University of Hawaiʻi lecturer in political science, worked with several major U.S. human rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to collect true stories of racial discrimination and human rights violations across America. The information was shared with the 18 member CERD committee through formal and informal briefings as well as side events at the United Nations.

These efforts by the U.S. Human Rights Network ensured that impacted individuals whose rights have been violated in the United States of America were at the center of the campaign. Cooper assisted Sybrina Fulton, mother of Treyvon Martin, and Ron Davis, father of Jordan Davis, in testifying about the racially discriminatory practices and policies that played direct roles in the deaths of their sons. In total, more than 80 advocates actively participated in educating the CERD members on rights violations taking place in America.

The first ever indigenous chair of the CERD, from Guatemala, moderated the six hour review, while the U.S. delegation was led by the first ever indigenous ambassador from the United States, Keith Harper. Harper, a Native American, was recently appointed as U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Cooper and other advocates will now continue the conversation with the U.S. government to implement the recommendations. Hawaiʻi will host a followup community conversation on Monday at 6:00 p.m. at the University of Hawaiʻi, West Oʻahu, to share the CERD findings.