FROM THE DESK OF THE PRESIDENT

November 29, 2011

Dear IAOHRA Members,

This year’s annual conference in Austin, Texas, was a wonderful opportunity for IAOHRA members and representatives of the State Department and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to share information and strategies for implementing and raising awareness of human rights.  

This letter builds upon the conference and highlights two concrete ways you can promote human rights and amplify the valuable work your agency is doing to advance equality and opportunity through the human rights framework.  

Celebrate Human Rights Day on December 10th

At the Austin Conference, IAOHRA’s membership adopted the resolution “to promote and encourage broader understanding of international human rights.”  Through adoption of this Resolution, each IAOHRA member committed to utilize human rights day as an opportunity to promote human rights in its local community by: 

  • Issuing proclamations or resolutions
  • Creating Human Rights awards
  • Publishing Editorials
  • Sponsoring Community Events and/or
  • Taking other action to raise awareness of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and encourage community action to support the Declaration’s principles.

We encourage you to use this Human Rights Day, December 10, 2011, as an opportunity to fulfill this commitment and we are happy to support you in your efforts.  Please let us know how you will celebrate and promote Human Rights Day in your community by sending an email to IAOHRAoutreach@law.columbia.edu and to iaohra@sso.org .  

For the past several years, IAOHRA members have used Human Rights Days to advance human rights awareness and IAOHRA and the Human Rights at Home Campaign (HuRAH) have highlighted these efforts on the official IAOHRA website.  This year’s efforts will likewise be highlighted on the official IAOHRA website and the HuRAH website.

Participate in Human Rights Reporting at the International Level

Over the past year, HRI has been working in conjunction with the HuRAH Campaign and IAOHRA to draft a shadow report to the United Nations as part of the upcoming review of the U.S.’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a treaty the U.S. ratified in 1992.  

This shadow report will supplement the information provided by the U.S. government and ensure the treaty committee has a more complete picture of how state and local governments are working to strengthen compliance with the ICCPR.  

The ICCPR prohibits discrimination and guarantees equality before the law and equality between men and women.  In past reviews of U.S. compliance with the ICCPR, the ICCPR committee has made recommendations to the U.S. government to address areas of concern including: housing discrimination on the basis of race, employment discrimination on the basis of gender and sexual orientation, and the prevalence of discrimination on the basis of national origin.  

Many state and local agencies are already working to address these issues.  To support and highlight your work, the shadow report describes state and local agency initiatives that utilize human rights standards and strategies and calls for the federal government to support these efforts through dedicated staff, education and training and funding.  

The shadow report already includes a number of examples of how state and local agencies use human rights standards and strategies, including:

•Improving access to services for vulnerable populations.  Examples include producing outreach in multiple languages to immigrant groups affected by housing discrimination, creating a toolkit for alien minors on seeking legal permanent residency and developing a Gender Identity Guide to answer questions regarding gender identity discrimination

•Documenting and monitoring human rights issues, such as reporting efforts regarding farm worker access to housing and hate crimes against the homeless

•Incorporating human rights into advocacy efforts through lobbying for the passage of a municipal ordinance based on the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

We are seeking additional examples of how agencies use human rights standards and strategies to further compliance with the ICCPR to include in this report.  If you have not already done so, please send a brief description of your initiatives and contact information to IAOHRAoutreach@law.columbia.edu.           

 

See samples below:   

                                                              

Shawn Martél Moore
President,
International  Association of Official Human Rights Agencies  

Risa E. Kaufman
Executive Director
Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute