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CERD Adopts General Recommendation 32

November 09, 2009

Several suggestions proposed by Professor Connie de la Vega to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) were adopted at its 75th session in August.

De la Vega submitted her article "The Special Measures Mandate of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Race Discrimination: Lessons from the United States and South Africa" to the committee in March. The article will be published in the ILSA Journal of International and Comparative Law in 2010.

CERD provides oversight to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, adopted in 1965, which mandates that states are obligated to undertake special measures to ensure the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. These measures include the review and modification of laws, policies, and practices that perpetuate racial discrimination.

De la Vega argues that special measures are not discriminatory and their goal is to secure rights to all groups of people. She said that affirmative action measures are only one means of addressing racial discrimination, but that race-based measures are necessary so long as racial disparities exist. However, the difficulties surrounding affirmative action programs highlight the need for a comprehensive set of definitions and standards for special measures, de la Vega said. In her article she suggested CERD adopt a General Recommendation on the meaning and scope of the special measures mandate in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

General Recommendation 32 was adopted for this purpose. Important points addressed in the recommendation include that the principle of equality combines equality before the law, equal protection of the law, and equality in the enjoyment and exercise of human rights; and that differential treatment will constitute discrimination unless it is for a legitimate aim but equal treatment can constitute discrimination if applied to persons whose situations are different.

"General Recommendation 32 is an important step in furthering the aims of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as it gives more guidance to governments about treaty requirements," de la Vega said. "The recommendation addresses racial discrimination and racial inequality, whether or not such inequality is the result of intentional discrimination."

To read General Recommendation 32, visit here and click 32.