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. We have 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. This is because the UN has not yet confirmed the timetable for the UK’s next review.

1. Stakeholders report on progress

  • the UK is due to submit its next state report by April 2020
  • other stakeholders should plan to submit their reports 2-3 months before the UN draws up its List of Themes (see stage 2 below). Based on the current timetable, stakeholders should aim to submit their reports in around June/July 2020
  • the UN is due to adopt its List of Themes in October 2020
  • the List of Themes is a non-exhaustive list of topics which will be raised during the UK’s examination by the UN. Unlike a List of Issues, it does not require the UK or other stakeholders to submit a written response
  • 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 in October/November 2020, before the UK’s review in November/December 2020
  • based on the current timetable, the UN review is estimated to take place in November/December 2020

Optional protocols

Declaration under Article 14 of CERD

Under CERD, governments can make a declaration under Article 14 which agrees to let individuals or groups make complaints to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination if they believe their rights have been violated. It can only be used when all domestic channels have been exhausted. The UK has not made 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 it 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 19/09/2019