Human Rights and Race
What is the Human Right to Freedom from Racial Discrimination?
Every woman, man, youth and child has the human right to freedom from
discrimination based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic
origin, and to other fundamental human rights dependent upon realization
of the human right to freedom from racial discrimination. These human
rights are explicitly set out in the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, the International Covenants, the Convention on the Rights of the
Child and other widely adhered to international human rights treaties and
Declarations -- powerful tools that must be put to use in efforts to
eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.
The Human Rights at Issue
The human right to freedom from racial discrimination entitles every
woman, man, youth and child to fundamental human rights including:
The human right to freedom from any distinction, exclusion, restriction
or preference based on race, colour, national or ethnic origin, language,
or any other status, which has the purpose or effect of impairing the
enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The human right to freedom from discrimination in all areas and levels
of education, and to equal access to continuing education and vocational
The human right to work and receive wages that contribute to an
adequate standard of living.
The human right to equal remuneration for equal work.
The human right to the highest attainable standard of health.
The human right to live in a safe and healthy environment.
The human right to participate in shaping decisions and policies
affecting one's community, on the local, national and international level.
Governments' Obligations to Ensuring the Human Right
to Freedom from Racial Discrimination
What provisions of human rights law guarantee all persons the Human
Right to Freedom from Racial Discrimination?
Includes excerpts from the
- "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights....
Everyone is entitled to ... rights ... without distinction of any kind,
such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other
opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status....
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination
to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection
against any discrimination ... and against any incitement to such
discrimination.... Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right
to equal pay for equal work...."
- -- Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 1, 2, 7, and 23
- "States Parties...undertake to guarantee that ... rights ... will be
exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex,
language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social
origin, property, birth or other status.... The States Parties ...
recognize the right of everyone to ... Fair wages and equal remuneration
for work of equal value without distinction of any kind.... Equal
opportunity for everyone to be promoted.... Education ... shall be made
equally accessible to all."
- -- International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Articles 2, 7, and
- "Each State Party ... undertakes to ... ensure ... rights ...
without distinction of any kind...; All persons shall be equal before
the courts.... Every child shall have, without any discrimination as to
race, colour, sex, language, religion, national or social origin,
property or birth, the right to such measures of protection as are
required by his status as a minor.... All persons are equal before the
law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection
of the law.... The law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee
to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on
- -- International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Articles 2, 14, 24, and 26
- "States Parties condemn racial discrimination and undertake to
pursue ... a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its
forms.... Each State Party undertakes to engage in no act ... of racial
discrimination....; Each State Party shall take effective measures to
review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind
or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or
perpetuating racial discrimination...; Each State Party shall prohibit
and bring to an end ... racial discrimination by any persons, group or
organization.... States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate
racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of
everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, national or ethnic
origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of ...
political rights ... civil rights ... economic, social and cultural
rights, in particular: the right to work, ... to just and favourable
conditions or work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for
equal work...; the right to housing; ... to public health, medical care,
social security and social services; the right to education and
training.... States Parties shall assure ... effective protection and
remedies ... against any acts of racial discrimination.... "
- -- Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Articles 2, 5,
- "States Parties shall respect and ensure ... rights ... without
discrimination of any kind irrespective of the child's or his or her
parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion,
political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property,
disability, birth or other status. States Parties shall take all
appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all
forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status,
activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child's parents, legal
guardians, or family members.... States Parties recognize the right of
the child to education, and ... they shall ... make primary education
compulsory and available free to all; ... make [secondary education]
available and accessible to every child...; make higher education
accessible to all.... In those States in which ethnic, religious or
linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin exist, a child
belonging to such a minority ... shall not be denied the right ... to
enjoy his or her own culture, to ... practise his or her own religion,
or to use his or her own language."
- -- Convention
on the Rights of the Child, Articles 2, 28, and 30
Governments' Commitments to Ensuring the Human Right
to Freedom from Racial Discrimination
What commitments have governments made to ensuring the realization of
the Human Right to Freedom from Racial Discrimination?
Includes commitments made at :
- "Respect for human rights ... without distinction of any kind is a
fundamental rule of international human rights law. The speedy and
comprehensive elimination of all forms of racism and racial
discrimination ... and related intolerance is a priority task for the
international community. Governments should take effective measures to
prevent and combat them.... The World Conference on Human Rights
welcomes the progress made in dismantling apartheid and calls upon the
international community and the United Nations system to assist in this
process.... The World Conference on Human Rights reaffirms the
obligation of States to ensure that persons belonging to minorities may
exercise fully and effectively all human rights ... without any
discrimination.... The persons belonging to minorities have the right to
enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion and
to use their own language ... freely and without ... any form of
- -- Vienna
Declaration, para. 15, 16, and 19
- "We commit ourselves to promoting social integration by fostering
societies that are stable, safe and just and that are based on ...
non-discrimination, tolerance, respect for diversity, equality of
opportunity, ... and participation of all people.... To this end ... we
will ... Formulate or strengthen policies and strategies geared to the
elimination of discrimination in all its forms and the achievement of
social integration based on equality and respect for human dignity....
Promote access for all to education, information, technology ... as
essential means for enhancing ... participation in civil, political,
economic, social and cultural life, and ensure respect for civil,
political, economic, social and cultural rights.... Recognize and
respect cultural, ethnic and religious diversity, promote and protect
the rights of persons belonging to national, ethnic, religious or
linguistic minorities, and take measures to facilitate their full
participation in all aspects ... of their societies...."
- -- Copenhagen
Declaration, Commitment 4
- "We are determined to ... ensure equal enjoyment of all human rights
... for all ... girls who face multiple barriers to their empowerment
and advancement because of such factors as their race, age, language,
ethnicity, culture, religion, or disability, or because they are
- -- Beijing
Declaration, para. 32
- "Actions to be taken: ... Give priority to promoting and protecting
the full and equal enjoyment by women and men of all human rights and
fundamental freedoms without distinction of any kind as to race, colour,
sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social
origins, property, birth or other status."
- -- Beijing
Platform for Action, para. 232
- "As human beings are at the centre of our concern for sustainable
development, they are the basis for our actions in implementing the
Habitat Agenda.... We shall intensify our efforts to eradicate ...
discrimination, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental
freedoms for all...."
- -- Istanbul
Declaration, para. 7
- "Equitable human settlements are those in which all people, without
discrimination of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion,
political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth
or other status, have equal access to housing, infrastructure, health
services, adequate food and water, education.... We ... commit ourselves
to ... Eradicating and ensuring legal protection from discrimination in
access to shelter and basic services, without distinction of any
- -- Habitat
Agenda, paras. 27 and 40
For more information, please contact PDHRE
The People's Movement for Human Rights Education
(PDHRE) / NY
Shulamith Koenig / Executive Director
526 West 111th Street,
New York, NY 10025
tel: 212.749-3156; fax: 212.666-6325;