A busy crowded street A busy crowded street

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination


The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) is an international treaty adopted in 1965 by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.

ICERD covers the rights of all people to enjoy civil, political, economic and social rights, without discrimination on grounds of race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin. The UK ratified ICERD in 1969.

Read the full text of ICERD.

How the CERD treaty cycle works

Each treaty operates on its own unique timetable. We are now in a period of follow-up activity for the CERD where we will be working the government and civil society organisations to try and implement the committee's concluding observations. 

A flow chart showing the various milestones of the CERD treaty cycle

ICERD work by the Commission

We have produced the following as part of our ICERD treaty monitoring activity:

We have produced the following work in relation to this treaty:

Next steps

  • The UK government need to report back to the committee their progress made on the implementation of recommendations around hate speech, counter-terrorism measures and health by August 2017.

In August 2016, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination published its concluding observations.

Issues raised by the committee included:

  • A worrying rise hate crime since the EU referendum
  • Employment gaps and the challenge of access to justice against the cuts in legal aid for employment cases.
  • Concerns about racist bullying in schools
  • The presence of institutional racism in the criminal justice system
  • The continued use of immigration detention without a time limited and that children continue to be held in immigration detention facilities

The UK Government's State Report was published in March 2015. 

ICERD is monitored by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD Committee), a body made up of 18 independent experts drawn from states that have ratified the treaty. The full text of CERD can be found here.

In theory, states should report to the Committee every two years to explain the steps taken to implement the treaty and the impact on the enjoyment of the rights it covers. In practice, however, the Committee usually asks states to send these reports (known as ‘State Reports’) together for examination every four or five years. The UK’s most recent State Report was submitted in March 2015.

The Committee also considers evidence from other sources. As one of the UK’s National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), the Commission can submit information to this process in what is known as a ‘shadow report’. The Commission submitted its last shadow report in July 2011 and will be submitting a further report in 2016. Civil society organisations can also submit ‘shadow reports’ and the Commission supports civil society to understand and use the treaties to improve government accountability.

The Committee then publishes a report of its examination of the State Report and any shadow reports with recommendations for action. This is known as the ‘Concluding Observations’. Civil Society organisations can also submit reports.

The Committee sometimes issues general recommendations that explain the application of the treaty in particular situations, for example combating racist hate speech. You can find these on the UN website.

Early warning and urgent action procedure

The Committee uses a special procedure to respond quickly to urgent issues. A working group will consider issues that, for example, involve a significant and persistent pattern of racial discrimination. Their options for action include issuing statements, collecting further information or offering help. The UK Government was subject to this procedure over the rights of Gypsy and Traveller families at Dale Farm. You can view the Committee’s statement on this here (September 2011).

Last updated: 07 Sep 2017