Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination should do more to follow up on recommendations and protect human rights defenders


ISHR has made a submission to a UN Committee highlighting the importance of national human rights defender laws.

Many people across the world suffer the scourge of racial discrimination. Episodes of discrimination are reported daily and human rights defenders fighting to end prejudice and bigotry are targeted for their activities. The issue needs to be addressed head on, in order to send a strong message that discrimination is never acceptable.

In this context, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) held broad consultations with representatives from civil society organisations coming from all over the world at the UN in Geneva, on 24 October 2016. The Committee initiated the dialogue in order to understand the challenges faced on the ground and sought suggestions to improve how the Committee engages with civil society and feedback on the overall effectiveness of its work.

The Committee invited civil society and non-governmental organisations to submit written answers to three main questions:

  • What are the key challenges and issues of racial discrimination in your country/region today and how do you work to address them? 

  • What has been your experience, as civil society, of engaging with CERD to date? 

  • How can the CERD improve and enhance its engagement with civil society, and its 
work on racial discrimination for greater impact on the ground? 

The meeting was chaired by Anastasia Crickley, chairperson of the Committee and members of the Committee were in attendance and was divided in two blocks. The first panel was composed of Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, and Sarah Chandler, Advocacy Officer at European Network Against Racism. The second panel comprised Taisuke Komatsu, Under Secretary-General of the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, and Claire Thomas, Deputy Director of Minority Rights Group International.

ISHR made a written submission, available here.

During the consultation, Vera Piovesan, currently interning with ISHR, took the floor to suggest the Committee consider violence towards human rights defenders as constituting a violation of States’ obligations under the Treaty.

Ms Piovesan suggested that the Committee make recommendations for systematic changes  concerning the protection of human rights defenders, including the establishment of national laws ensuring the protection of human rights defenders and the establishment of human rights defenders focal points in member states.

‘National laws aimed at protecting human rights defenders are an effective way to ensure that a safe and enabling environment is ensured for them to operate in,’ said Ms Piovesan.

The turnout at the event was very good, with more than 100 representatives from civil society participating. Throughout the meeting, the role of civil society was widely acknowledged and the Committee was praised for its openness and engagement with it.



  • NGOs
  • United Nations
  • Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)