In 1994, the U.S. Senate ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
As a party to the CERD, the United States commits to prohibit racial
discrimination in all its forms and is required to submit reports
periodically to the CERD Committee outlining its compliance with the
In February 2008, the CERD Committee released its "concluding observations" related to the most recent U.S. report.
The report identified a series of "concerns" and made several
"recommendations" to the United States that had little to do with U.S.
compliance with its treaty obligations and everything to do with the
advancement of an agenda that is, at best, only tangentially related to
race and racial discrimination.
The U.S. Record on Racial Discrimination
United States has struggled with issues of race from the time of its
founding over 200 years ago, and the nation continues to struggle to
address its legacy of slavery and racial segregation. While the current
status of race relations in the United States is far from perfect and
much work remains to be done, it is incorrect to say that the
government and the American people have not acted in good faith to
close the gaps that exist between Americans of different races and
All three branches of the U.S. government have
helped to protect the rights of racial minorities in America. Congress
passed landmark legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the
Voting Rights Act of 1965, and many other laws to provide redress to
racial minorities that were subjected to discrimination in public
accommodation, education, employment, and elections, and the executive
branch devotes substantial resources to the enforcement of those laws.
The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission, and the U.S. Commission on Civil
Rights form the core of a federal network of agencies and commissions
dedicated to achieving racial equality in America. Over the years, the
Supreme Court has issued many major decisions expanding the protections
afforded to minorities under the Constitution.
purpose of the CERD and the CERD Committee is to review the efforts of
the U.S. government and report on the U.S. record on improving race
relations and addressing racial disparities and discrimination.
Unfortunately, however, the CERD Committee does very little of that,
instead using its resources and reports to deliver a demonstrably
leftist attack on U.S. policy on social issues, immigration, the
detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, abortion, the death penalty, and
various other matters high on the liberal agenda.
Advancing the Leftist Agenda
Very little of the CERD Committee's report actually addresses issues and allegations regarding race in the United States.
Instead, the largest portion of the committee's concerns and
recommendations constitutes a laundry list of positions taken by
liberal academics, international human rights non-governmental
organizations (NGOs), the United Nations, and other members of the
"international community" on various causes completely unrelated to
Specifically, the CERD Committee's report
calls upon the United States government—ostensibly for the purpose of
combating racial discrimination—to take the following actions:
- Place a moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty;
- Restore voting rights to felons;
Ensure that enemy combatants held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the
right to judicial review to challenge the lawfulness and conditions of
- Prevent U.S. corporations from negatively affecting the rights of indigenous people living outside of the United States;
the disparities that exist in "sexual and reproductive health" and
facilitate access to "adequate contraceptive and family planning
methods" (widely known euphemisms for providing abortion services);
- Protect "undocumented migrant workers" from discrimination in the workplace;
- Provide counsel to indigent minorities not only in criminal cases, but in civil legal proceedings as well;
information on the extent to which grade school and high school
textbooks and curricula "reflect the multi-ethnic nature" of the United
States and whether they "provide sufficient information on the history
and culture of the different racial, ethnic, and national groups";
all forms of "hate speech" regardless of whether such a ban would run
counter to the First Amendment's protection against abridgements of the
freedom of speech;
- Prohibit the practice of sentencing criminal defendants under the age of 18 to life without the possibility of parole;
- Participate in the preparatory process for the Durban Review Conference and attend the conference itself; and
- Increase its efforts to combat violence against women.
short, it is clear that the CERD Committee has in large part ignored
the stated aim of the convention and has instead transformed the treaty
reporting process into a vehicle for advocating leftist positions on
causes and issues other than race and racial discrimination. While many
of the problems identified by the CERD Committee deserve attention, it
is doubtful that there exists any significant relationship between
those problems and any U.S. policy relating to race or racial
While the CERD Committee makes an attempt to
link each of its agenda items to a supposed racial disparity, the links
are at best tenuous. For example, the committee notes that racial and
ethnic minorities constitute a disproportionate share of incarcerated
felons and death-row inmates in the United States.
In the eyes of the committee, both the disenfranchisement of felons and
the imposition of the death penalty have a "disproportionate impact" on
minorities, and such practices must cease. The committee naturally
assumes that minority felons and death row inmates were convicted of
crimes by American judges and juries because of their race and
ethnicity, not because of substantial evidence of their guilt. By that
logic, the committee would apparently be in favor of the death penalty
and felon disenfranchisement as long as the prison population and death
row were racially representative. The logical gymnastics used by the
committee to reach its findings are extraordinary.
CERD report represents an attempt by the committee and its allies in
the NGO community to achieve through the treaty process what they have
not achieved and cannot achieve through the democratic process. Much of
what the committee recommends runs counter to what American citizens,
through their elected representatives at the local and national levels,
would consent to under any circumstances. It is unlikely that the
American people would agree to an unconstitutional ban on a certain
category of speech only because they disagree with its content. Also,
since 63 percent of Americans believe in the use of the death penalty,
it is unlikely that they would agree to abolish it.
important, most, if not all, of the issues enumerated by the CERD
Committee are the subject of fierce and ongoing debates within the
United States. Neither the United Nations nor the CERD Committee has
any jurisdiction or meaningful role to play in those debates. Those
matters constitute legal, social, and cultural components of American
life and must be left to the American people to consider and decide.
A Sign of Things to Come?
United States has only itself to blame for the fact that an
unaccountable and undemocratic international committee—one-third of
whose members are known human rights abusers—is
in a position to pass judgment on the status of U.S. race relations. No
one forced President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the CERD Convention in
1966, and no one forced the U.S. Senate to ratify it in 1994.
agreeing to be bound to the convention, the United States promised to
"prohibit and bring to an end, by all appropriate means, including
legislation as required by circumstances, racial discrimination by any
persons, group or organization."
A broader commitment by the U.S. government to end racial bias in the
public, private, governmental, and corporate spheres could not have
been made. The resulting intrusion by the "international community" and
its CERD Committee proxy into U.S. internal affairs is the unwelcome
yet predictable consequence of what was a worthy commitment by the
government to achieving racial equality in America.
to be seen whether the United States has learned its lesson from its
experience with the CERD Committee and other U.N. human rights bodies.
Certain members of the U.S. Senate would have the Untied States make
similarly overbroad commitments vis-à-vis other treaties to which the
United States is not yet a party, including the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the
U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and other treaties
that would allow international scrutiny of U.S. social policy.
which was signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 but has never been
ratified by the U.S. Senate, requires its signatories to take "all
appropriate measures, including legislation, to ensure the full
development and advancement of women, for the purpose of guaranteeing
them the exercise and enjoyment of human rights and fundamental
freedoms on a basis of equality with men."
The CEDAW Committee has exercised its broad jurisdiction to recommend
that its signatories abolish Mother's Day (Belarus), decriminalize
prostitution (China), and require doctors to perform abortions
regardless of their personal objection to the procedure (Croatia and
If the President makes the mistake of signing and the
Senate makes the mistake of ratifying conventions such as CEDAW, the
United States may expect more of the same from the U.N. committees that
administer those treaties.
a nation where racial minorities have succeeded at the highest levels
of society—as Cabinet officials, business executives, professional
athletes, Members of Congress, and a presidential candidate, to name
but a few examples—it is difficult to countenance advice and
recommendations from a committee whose members include representatives
from Algeria, China, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, and Togo (chair of the
committee). When that report mirrors in almost all respects a liberal
international agenda that has little support within the United States,
it becomes even more difficult to consider seriously the "concerns and
recommendations" made therein. Therefore:
Administration and the U.S. Senate should learn a lesson from the
behavior of the CERD Committee when they consider either signing or
ratifying similarly well-intentioned treaties in years to come.
next Administration and the U.S. Senate should closely scrutinize and
be wary of the following treaties (that have not been signed and/or
ratified) and their respective monitoring bodies: the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); the
Convention on the Rights of the Child, (CRC); the U.N. Convention on
the Law of the Sea (LOST); the International Convention on the
Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their
Families; and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
The United States government and the American
people should continue their collective efforts to address issues
relating to race relations, women's and children's rights, the death
penalty, immigration, multiculturalism, migrant workers, hate speech,
and many other matters facing our society. While these issues are not
unique to the United States, it is up to the American people and their
government to determine the best course of action to address them based
on America's unique history and traditions. Agreeing to additional U.N.
conventions will bring America no closer to resolving these matters.
 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, at
www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cerd.htm (CERD Convention).
example, the CERD Committee is critical of the Department of Homeland
Security's National Security Entry/Exit Registration System (NSEERS),
which committee members consider a form of racial profiling. CERD
 CERD Report, 23, pp. 6–7.
 CERD Report, 27, p. 9.
 CERD Report, 24, p. 7.
 CERD Report, 30, p. 10.
 CERD Report, 33, p. 11.
 CERD Report, 28, p. 9.
 CERD Report, 22, p. 6.
 CERD Report, 38, pp. 12–13.
 CERD Report, 18, p. 5.
 CERD Report, 21, p. 6.
 CERD Report, 39, p. 13.
 CERD Report, 26, p. 8–9.
 CERD Report, 27, p. 9.
 CERD Convention, Art. 2., 1(d).
 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, U.N. Doc. A/34/46 (1979).