Update: 02.05.2019

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

21 December 1995 (entry into force 4 January 1969) 

Text of Treaty

German / French / Italian / English

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination commits contracting states to take all appropriate steps to shape a policy against racism and of understanding and sympathy among all races.


180 contracting states (as of 2 May 2019; current count

Defining Racial Discrimination 

The convention assumes a broad definition of racial discrimination as «any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life». 

Obligations of Contracting States

The contracting states are especially obliged to condemn any act of propaganda and all organizations that rest upon theories of superiority of one race or of a group of persons of a different skin colour or ethnicity that aim to justify promote any sort of racial hatred or racial discrimination. The contracting states shall make the propagation of such bodies of thought as well as any arousal of racial discrimination and violence against a race or a group of persons of a different skin colour or ethnicity a punishable offense. 

Monitoring Process

Contracting states are obliged to give periodical account of designed measures to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The first report is released one year upon the entry into force of the Convention. A report follows every two years there following. The Committee can demand further information from the state parties (Art. 9).

Individual Complaint Process

Additionally, the possibilities of inter-state complaints and - if the contracting state in question has acknowledged the jurisdiction of the Committee - of individual complaints to the Committee exist. At present, 55 states have accepted the individual complaint process of Article 14 (as at May 2014).

As the complaining authority, an individual must already have exhausted domestic legal means. The Committee conveys the received message in response to the written statement to the contracting state, without disclosing the identity of the person in question. The final decision is a set of recommendations and proposals (Art. 14 Para. 7 lit. b ICERD). The Committee sends this document to the contracting state and individual in question. The decisions of the Committee are not legally binding but they have authoritative character. They have an effect on the sense of justice and courts of law will incorporate them into their decision-making processes.

© humanrights.ch / MERS - Hallerstr. 23 - CH-3012 Bern - Tel. +41 31 302 01 61