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The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

In 1963, the General Assembly approved the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) began operating in 1969.

CERD is an autonomous body comprised of 18 experts with recognised competencies in the field of human rights. The experts are elected in their personal capacity, not as representatives of their Governments.

Mandate

CERD monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties. The roles of CERD are:

  • To consider the periodic reports submitted by the States on how they how they are implementing the obligations they have assumed by ratifying the Convention. CERD examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of "concluding observations".
  • To receive and consider individual complaints, also known as "communications", made by individuals who claim violations of their Convention rights by a State party.
  • To consider certain complaints made by a State party that another State party is not abiding by the obligations assumed under the Convention.
  • To make general recommendations and comments.
  • To inform the General Assembly of its activities.

CERD also includes in its regular agenda preventive measures, which include early-warning aimed at preventing existing situations escalating into conflicts and urgent procedures to respond to problems requiring immediate attention to prevent or limit the scale or number of serious violations of the Convention.

Read more about the early-warning procedure on CERD's own website

CERD also publishes its interpretation of the content of human rights provisions, known as general recommendations (or general comments), on thematic issues and organizes thematic discussions.

Read more about the general recommendations on the CERD website

Go to the CERD website's list of past thematic discussions

Impact

CERD has contributed significantly to the progressive development of indigenous rights through a general interpretation of the application of the human rights conventions and in their reports and recommendations they have recognised and protected the collective rights of indigenous peoples.

CERD has been used by a relatively small number of indigenous people and organisations with very favourable results in terms of recognition of their rights. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of indigenous organisations, the procedures of CERD and other treaty bodies are not well-known.

Sessions

The Committee convenes twice a year for sessions of three weeks' duration, normally in February and August at the United Nations Office in Geneva.

Documents

All documents, including State reports and CERD's Sessional/Annual Reports, etc., are available at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights' website:

Go to the OHCHR's compilation of CERD documents

More information

CERD and other treaty bodies are described in the following IWGIA publications:

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (Lola García-Alix 2003)

Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples: A Handbook on the UN System (Florencia Roulet 1999)

In OHCHR's Fact Sheet No. 12: The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination you can find an elaborate description of CERD and its work:

Go to OHCHR's fact sheet

You can also visit CERD's website for a comprehensive introduction to the Convention on all Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the work of the CERD Committee:

Go to the CERD website