International Human Rights Law

PADs – Why CERD34 in Denmark?

In the last article, I mentioned that the working group at Afro Empowerment Center (AEC) submitted a citizen’s petition for ratification and implementation of CERD34, thereby asking Denmark to uphold its agreement to take action on eliminating racial discrimination in all forms. But what is it about CERD34’s contents that makes AEC push for its implementation? To fully understand AEC’s petition, we must first talk about the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)

 ICERD is a UN Convention or treaty, adopted and opened for signature and ratification by UN member nations in 1969. By signing and ratifying ICERD, State Parties commit to, among other things, the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of understanding among all races.

States Parties condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and promoting understanding among all races, and, to this end: (a) Each State Party undertakes to engage in no act or practice of racial discrimination against persons, groups of persons or institutions and to ensure that all public authorities and public institutions, national and local, shall act in conformity with this obligation; ICERD art 2, ¶1 

Denmark signed and then ratified ICERD in 1971 thereby becoming a State Party to this historic convention.

ICERD also calls for a group of experts to create a committee to monitor the implementation of ICERD in State Parties. Hence the creation of The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). CERD is comprised of 18 elected independent impartial individuals, representing different societal forms and legal systems. Among CERDs many duties, they also review reports, submitted by State Parties, on the status of implementation of ICERD. The committee reviews said reports, noting concerns and providing recommendations to the specific country. Country specific recommendations are called ‘Concluding Observations’. The committee also publishes General Recommendations, where they delve into specific topics within the realm of ICERD, human rights and discrimination. One such General Recommendation is CERD34, which specially looks at racial discrimination against People of African Descent. There are other General Recommendations for other minority groups: Gender (CERD25), indigenous peoples (CERD23), xenophobia/ non-citizens (CERD30) and so on.

 So why CERD34, specifically?

Racial discrimination exists, period. There is no single definite guideline for combating and/or eliminating racial discrimination. No plug and play solution, no ‘do this today and job done’ tomorrow. However, many strategies, and initiatives have been tried and tested by countries all over the world. The UN has been monitoring and gathering knowledge from these attempts and their recommendations reflect gained knowledge. One could therefore argue that it would be wise to learn from and incorporate this knowledge instead of reinventing the wheel. Additionally, the recommendations in CERD34 are broad enough that State Parties have considerable flexibility in exactly how to implement them, giving the State Party freedom to create policies and procedures that function with existing systems and which upholds national values. 

 For example, let us look at the recommendation regarding collection of data, a subject I touched on in my previous article. The recommendation is broad enough that State Parties can decide for themselves the best method of collecting data.

 Take steps to identify communities of people of African descent living in their territories, especially through the collection of disaggregated data on the population, bearing in mind the Committee’s general recommendations, particularly general recommendations Nos. 4 (1973) on demographic composition of the population (art. 9); 8 (1990) on identification with a particular racial or ethnic group (art. 1, paras. 1 and 4), and 24 (1999) on reporting of persons belonging to different races, national/ethnic groups, or indigenous peoples (art. 1).  – CERD34

CERD34 is not alone, the EU also promotes collecting data on ethnicity but is equally as flexible on the method.

 Data on racial and ethnic inequalities provides the knowledge necessary for combatting discrimination. In order to ensure that European data collection does not discriminate across the grounds covered by EU anti-discrimination law – which could potentially violate Article 21 of the EU Charter – Eurostat needs to provide equality data on the basis of racial and ethnic origin to the same extent it provides data on grounds such as sex, age and disability. – Data Collection in the Field of Ethnicity, 2017, European Commission

The European Commission’s 2017 report on Data Collection in the Field of Ethnicity analyzed current data collection methods across Europe. They concluded that:

 The most effective and economically viable way to assessing the impact and enforcement of anti-discrimination law and policy in the fields covered by the RED would be to collect and analyse straightforward racial and ethnic origin data in the national census, surveys and administrative registries. This can and is being done across the world. …

The wide array of good practice examples shows that there is room for exchange and need for peer review. However, existing tools such as testing and the collection of discrimination experience have their limits, first and foremost in their transferability to data collection in the census and surveys. Geographic origin cannot fully capture the way racial and ethnic origin is constructed in the context of discrimination. The role that language, religion and cultural traditions play in ascribing racial and ethnic origin may vary across the groups and this variance needs to be taken into account during the design of categories. As the 168 EDI Report, p. 65. 47 information for such design can only come from minority communities, it is imperative that they are meaningfully engaged and can test the newly established categories. – Data Collection in the Field of Ethnicity, 2017, European Commission

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