Equal in Dignity and Rights: The UN, The US, and Anti-Racism

Advocacy @ UNA-NCA
Sep 1, 2020 · 3 min read

Download the full policy memo here.

“No matter how desperately and firmly we may be interested in the settlement of the race problem in Boston, in Kansas, and in the United States it cannot ultimately be settled without consultation and cooperation with the whole civilized world.”[1]

Racism is perhaps best understood as a virus that has afflicted the United States’ body politic since the inception of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

For centuries, its cells have mutated, evolved into more covert strains, and developed astounding resilience. Continuously multiplying, the virus spares no organs and presents itself in areas of education, healthcare, criminal justice, employment, and housing.

Several International Conventions have been invoked by Black Americans in their appeals to the United Nations over racial injustice. In his petition to the UN, artist and political activist Paul Robeson stated that in light of segregation, discrimination, and lynchings in America the U.S. government was guilty of genocide under Article II of the 1948 Genocide Convention. Over half a century later, the parents of Michael Brown, a Black teenager fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, invoked the 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment during their testimony before the UN committee.

At an urgent debate in June 2020, held by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland, Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother addressed the special meeting: “You in the United Nations are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. I am asking you to help me get justice.”

Born from the ashes of the Second World War, the United Nations’ core principles reflect a political and moral repugnance against the racist laws and practices of the Nazi-regime. The organization’s commitment to human dignity and equality is reflected in Article 1 of the United Nations Charter. Since this 1945 foundational treaty of the United Nations, the UN has cultivated a landscape of diverse legal instruments in support of its anti-racism agenda.

Now, the United Nations is presented with an opportunity to harness the energy generated by the transnational movement sparked in Minneapolis against racial injustice to propel its anti-racism agenda forward.

This policy memo attempts to holistically catalogue the efforts undertaken by the United Nations against racism which includes

· seminal Declarations and Statements on Race;

· International Conventions and legally binding treaties;

· three World Conferences Against Racism;

· various Resolutions adopted in recognition and remembrance of the victims of slavery;

· and the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism.

In chronicling past UN Declarations, Conventions, and Programmes of Action adopted by the United Nations in the global fight against racism, this report presents a foundation from which we can thoughtfully deliberate the future of the anti-racism agenda, in the United States of America and around the world.

Download the full policy memo here.

[1] Henry J Richardson III, “The Gulf Crisis and African-American Interests under International Law,” American Journal of International Law 87, no. 1 (January 1993): 62 (quoting W.E.B. Du Bois, Peace and Foreign Relations, Crisis, Nov. 9, 1923).

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UNA-NCA Snapshots provides a platform for our community leaders, partners, members & staff to publish op-eds, reviews, and innovative research. The views in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of UNA-NCA. Ready to write? Submit your pitch to shayna@unanca.org.

Advocacy @ UNA-NCA

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UNA-NCA Snapshots

UNA-NCA Snapshots provides a platform for our community leaders, partners, members & staff to publish op-eds, reviews, and innovative research. The views in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of UNA-NCA. Ready to write? Submit your pitch to shayna@unanca.org.