International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

UN treaty

CERD is an international human rights treaty adopted in 1965. The UK ratified (agreed to follow) CERD in 1969.

By ratifying CERD, the UK agrees to take action to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms, including:

  • eradicating racial hatred and incitement to hatred
  • taking action to combat prejudices which lead to racial discrimination
  • guaranteeing the enjoyment of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights without discrimination on grounds of race, colour, or national or ethnic origin

How the treaty is monitored

The implementation of CERD is monitored by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Around every five years, the Committee reviews how well each state is putting into practice the rights in CERD. Find out more about previous review cycles.

There are six stages in the treaty cycle. Civil society organisations can engage throughout this process. In preparation for the 2016 review of the UK, we produced a guide for civil society with information on how to participate. The UN has information on how to participate on its website.

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) treaty cycle

The CERD review cycle is currently at stage 1: Stakeholders report on progress.

The timings given below are estimates and may change, particularly as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which prompted the UN to cancel a number of Geneva sessions. The UN has not yet confirmed the timetable for the UK’s next review, which is scheduled upon submission of the state report. When this takes place, we will update the below with specific dates.

1. Stakeholders report on progress

  • The UK was due to submit its next state report by 6 April 2020. We are anticipating significant delay in submission of the state report, but we have engaged with the UK Government to encourage submission
  • The UN will then schedule the examination.
  • Other stakeholders should plan to submit their reports 2-3 months before the UN draws up its List of Themes (see stage 2 below).
  • Joint submissions have been prepared by civil society organisations in England and civil society organisations in Wales (published July 2021).
  • The UN is due to adopt its List of Themes about 1.5 months before the examination.
  • The List of Themes is a non-exhaustive list of topics which will be raised during the UK’s examination by the UN.
  • Unlike with a List of Issues, the UK and other stakeholders are not required to submit a written response to the List of Themes.
  • However, if stakeholders want to, they should aim to submit their written response at least 3 weeks before the UK is examined.
  • It is difficult to estimate the examination date because of delays at the UN as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty about when the UK state report will be submitted. We expect that the examination will not be possible before 2024.

Optional protocols

Declaration under Article 14 of CERD

Governments can make a declaration under Article 14 of CERD which agrees to let individuals or groups make complaints to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination if they believe that their rights have been violated. It can only be used when all domestic channels have been exhausted. The UK has not made such a declaration.

General comments

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has issued a number of General Recommendations on CERD. These provide further detail on how the treaty should be interpreted, covering issues such as racist hate speech, racial discrimination in the criminal justice system and discrimination against non-citizens.

Last updated on 15/02/2023