Success story - USA
Governments often do not do enough to combat racism and racial inequality. For this reason, the US Human Rights Network organised a 100-strong delegation to come to Geneva to seek help from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which monitors how States are upholding their international obligations.
In February 2012, Sybrina Fulton’s 17-year-old son, Trayvon Martin, was shot dead in Florida. Two and a half years later, in August 2014, she was in Geneva to tell her story to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“We thought it was important to bring people who are directly affected by the issues to attend the Committee’s review of how the United States is upholding the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,” says Ejim Dike, USHRN Executive Director.
“We wanted to highlight to members the failure of the US Government to protect people against gun violence, the impact of Stand Your Ground laws, as well as the broader culture of criminalizing black and brown people,” she adds.
The USHRN, which brings together over 300 groups, uses the Committee’s reviews to raise awareness about often marginalized human rights concerns in the US, organize around issues, reframe racial justice as a human rights demand and push for higher standards of accountability than is offered by US civil rights law.
“No one issue exists on its own. If you look at the issue of gun and police violence, it exists predominantly in communities of colour but also, importantly, communities that are poor, that lack their economic rights. Economic, civil and political rights are all interrelated,” Ejim adds.
She says it has been hugely important to engage international human rights experts and bodies in what is happening in the US, and she encourages NGOs worldwide to participate, if they can, in the ICERD reviews of their respective countries.
Statements from UN experts are, she says, of real significance. “We use them in our activism, and they give more hope to people on the ground than I think even the UN experts can imagine,” Ejim explains. “It’s recognition that, in fact, your issue is legitimate and we hear you.”