International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

The international human rights committee that considers racial discrimination is the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the relevant convention is the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).

ICERD was the first of the nine United Nations (UN) human rights treaties. It was adopted in 1965 by the United Nations’ General Assembly. As of November 2010, 174 states are party to ICERD; the UK ratified in 1969.

The Convention defines what constitutes racial discrimination and sets out a comprehensive framework for ensuring that civil, political, economic and social rights are enjoyed by all, without distinction of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin. By ratifying ICERD, the states parties show their commitment to make the rights contained in the Convention a reality in their country.

The UK is required to submit a report once every two years to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The UK submitted its report in February 2010. On 2 September 2011, the United Nations published its concluding observations on the UK Government's record on race equality. This followed an examination of the UK Government's compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which took place in Geneva on 23 and 24 August 2011. The Commission submitted a shadow report to the Committee and gave evidence during the examination process. The UN Committee's recommendations address a number of issues which were also highlighted in our own report.

A list of the full recommendations can be found at the links below:

Our report draws the Committee’s attention to the key issues that the Commission considers are impacting on race equality, highlights gaps in the State report, and makes recommendations to the Committee for government to take action.

The Commission feels that whilst progress has been made on some of the previous recommendations by the CERD, there are still significant issues where we feel more progress could have been made. Two of the major areas of concern raised in the Commission's report are:

  • The drastic inequalities and discrimination faced by Roma, Gypsies and Irish Travellers across the UK. We are particularly concerned about site provision, which we see as the lynch-pin to many of the inequalities suffered by these communities.
  • The disproportionate use of stop and search powers, particularly against young men from ethnic minorities. We will continue to push police federations on this matter.

You can find details of all the concerns raised by the Commission to the CERD Committee by downloading our full report.

CERD report coverSubmission to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination on the UK’s 18th, 19th and 20th periodic reports

Report submitted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in response to CERD/C/GBR/CO/18-20/Add.1 (Information received from the Government of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland regarding the recommendations in paragraphs 9, 18, 21 and 28 of the concluding observations (CERD/C/GBR/CO/18-20) – January 2013).

May 2012: Simon Woolley speaking at the United Nations

On behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Commissioner Simon Woolley, who champions race, has been invited by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right's Anti Discrimination Unit; to speak at the 11th Session on the Working Group of Experts on people of African Descent (30 April - 4 May 2012).

The Working group, established in 2002 found that people of African descent experience discrimination relating to their representation in, and treatment by, the administration of justice, and face considerable hurdles in accessing health, housing, education and political participation. The WG also particularly emphasised the need for further collection of data disaggregated on the basis of ethnicity to identify and address human rights issues affecting people of African descent.

It is always a great honour to speak at the UN, but particularly so in an area that I care so much about. My brief time on floor of the UN looked at the challenges the UK's African diaspora face around issues such as policing, unemployment and education. But our brothers and sisters from around the globe were also be keen to hear about our strengths as a community and the work the Commission and other bodies are doing to ensure tackling race inequality remains high on the agenda. These events are equally an opportunity to broaden links with the global African diaspora.

Simon Woolley

New guide

We have produced a guide jointly with the Runnymede Trust to explain ICERD and what rights and remedies this Convention affords people and groups to challenge racial inequality.

ICERD guideGuide: From local voices to global audience: Engaging with the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

More information

Find out more from the UN about the Committee - CERD
Find out more from the UN about the Convention - ICERD

Global action on racism - Durban Review Conference

The Commision attended the United Nations anti-racism conference in Geneva in April 2009. As the accredited National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) and equalities regulator for Britain, the Commission joined NHRIs from around the world to back calls for a renewed effort to combat all forms of racism, xenophobia and related intolerance. Find out more >

Last Updated: 30 Jun 2014