International Convention on The Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination


On 21 December 1965, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. the convention came into force on 4 January 1969. This International treaty is determined to undertake all forms of racial discrimination and outlines the rights of racial groups. India signed the convention on 2 March  1967. The Indian government declared that for reference of any dispute to the International Court of Justice for the verdict in terms of article 22 of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, the approval of all parties to the dispute is crucial in each case. On 24 February 1969, the Government of Pakistan informed the secretary-general that it is agreed not to approve the reservations formulated by the Indian government in her instrument of ratification.

Impact of ICERD

The declaration proclaimed fundamental equality to all persons and confirm that no person shall be discriminated against on the grounds of race, color, or ethnic derivation. Any racism between human beings will be a barrier to generous and peaceful connections among Countries. The ICERD had a notable influence on national laws. Many nations have legislation that reflects the norms in ICERD for illustration prohibiting racial discrimination at work and the conditions of services such as health care, accommodation, and education.

The Convention consists of 4739 words and 25 articles. Part 1 i.e. Article 1 to Article 7 consists of directions to the state parties to abolish all forms of racial discrimination. Part 2 i.e. Article 8 to Article 16 inaugurates a committee of nationals of the state parties on the elimination of racial discrimination. Part 3 i.e. Article 17 to Article 25 communicates the process to ratify and amend the convention.

What is Racial Discrimination?

Article 1 of the Convention specifies racial discrimination as any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, of an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. However, the convention will not apply to distinction, exclusion, restrictions, or preferences made by a state party between citizens and non-citizens. Under article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights laid down that the rights and freedoms provided in the declaration will be accessible to all people irrespective of their religion, sex, color, and race.

Obligations Of The State Parties

Article 2 of the convention put obligations on the state parties to eliminate racial discrimination by following the below guidelines:

  • Undertaking not to fascinate in any act of racial discrimination against any person or institution and securing that all public authorities and institutions act in harmony.
  • Not sponsoring, defending, or supporting racial discrimination by any person or organization.
  • Adopting significant measures to evaluate governmental, national, and local policies and amending, repealing, or nullify any such law which has the impact of formulating racial discrimination.
  • Prohibiting all legislation as required by circumstances by taking all reasonable means.
  • Undertaking to grant equality before the law and furnishing the right to equal treatment before all organs administering justice and the right to security and protection by the state against any violence or bodily harm.

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

In 1969, when the convention entered into force, a committee composed of 18 independent experts of high moral standing and acknowledged impartiality was established. They are elected by the state parties from among their nationals. Each party may nominate one person from among its nationals. According to a report on 9 December 2002, the committee on elimination of racial discrimination gained more than 30 years of experience as a treaty supervisor body and the convention is rectified by 165 States.

  • Elections
  • It shall be held 6 months after the date of the entry into force of this Convention.
  • The secretary-general of the United Nations will address a letter to the State Parties before 3 months of such election, to submit their nominations within two months.
  • The list of nominated persons will be prepared in alphabetical order.
  • The Committee members will be elected for a term of 4 years.
  • The state parties will be responsible for the expenses of the committee members when they are in the performance of committee duties.

Inter-State Complaint System

  • Under article 11 of the convention, if a state party considers that any other the state party is not bestowing any effect to the provisions of the convention, it will fetch the matter to the spotlight of the committee. The committee will transmit the communication to the concerned state party. Within 3 months, that state party will submit written explanations or demonstrate statements considering the matter and the remedy that will be taken by the state.
  • If the matter is not adjusted to the satisfaction of parties, the state party has the right to refer the matter again to the committee and also the other state within six months after the receipt by the receiving state of the initial communication.
  • When the committee obtained all the information, the chairman will appoint an ad hoc conciliation commission of five persons who shall not be members of the committee.
  • The members of the commission will be appointed with the consent of the parties to the dispute.
  • The meetings of the commission will be held at United Nations headquarters or any other place which can be decided by the commission.
  • When the commission considered the matter fully, it will submit a report consisting of all the findings and relevant facts of the issue between the parties to the chairman.
  • The chairman will communicate such a report to each state party and the state parties will inform the chairman about their acceptance of the recommendations within three months.

Ratification and Accession of the Convention By the State Parties

Under article 20, the secretary-general of the United Nations will receive and circulate reservations made by the states at the time of rectification or accession to all the states which are the parties to the convention. If any state party does not accept such reservations, then that state party will communicate such objection within 90 days to the secretary-general. If at least two-third state parties have an objection with any reservation, it will be considered as incompatible or inhibitive.  Also, any State Party can denounce the convention after giving a notification under Article 21 to the secretary-general of the United Nations and such denunciation will take effect after one year of such notification receipt.

The state parties can also, request the secretary-general of the United Nations to revise the convention by giving notification in writing.

International Court of Justice

If there is any dispute between two or more state parties regarding the interpretation or application of the convention, it will be settled by negotiation for the procedures provided in the convention. However, if the dispute is not settled, the state parties to the dispute can request and refer the case to the International Court of Justice under Article 22.

The disputants can also decide on any other mode of settlement.

News Reports Related to ICERD

  • UP’s procedure of Hathras case in infringement of the UN convention on racial discrimination
    • The Hathras gang rape is a questionable incident where the state agencies are found to safeguard the upper caste perpetrators. The behavior of the state apparatus infringes on India’s duties under international law. It violated Article 5(a) which ensures equal treatment before organs administering justice, article 5(b) which guarantees protection against violence, and article 6 which guarantees effective protection and remedies by State institutions. The CERD has also recommended India to secure that (i) such victims have access to significant treatments, (ii) legal, medical and psychological aid is furnished to them, and (iii) grievances are appropriately reported and analyzed.
  • Corona Virus as an excuse for Racism
    • In India, northeastern people are becoming the victim of racism. As coronavirus was originated in China, many people continue to call it The Chinese virus. The Northeastern people in India having different facial features are always subjected to racial taunts like Chinese. A young woman residing in Manipur was called corona in the national capital. Many other people also faced drastic online insult.

AUTHOR: Riya Goel, Research Board Member.

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