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NEWS & UPDATES

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IAOHRA NEWS: Members may also submit local events and news information related to their agencies to be posted to the IAOHRA website. Please email information to iaohra@iaohra.org

GANHRI Statement, Adopted at the GANHRI Annual Conference Business and Human Rights: The role and Experiences of NHRIs

On 8 May 2024, National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) from all regions gathered in Geneva for the Annual Conference of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI), on the role and experiences of NHRIs in addressing Business and Human Rights (BHR), held in the context of GANHRI’s 2024 Annual Meeting.

Read GANHRI Statement 

Posted May 10, 2024

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IAOHRA PRESIDENT WARREN ADVOCATES FOR U.S. NHRI AT UNITED NATIONS IN GENEVA SWITZERLAND

Download Article Here (PDF)

It is a tremendous honor to serve as the President of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies (IAOHRA), the premiere human rights professional leadership organization of state and local government agencies serving nearly 250 million people. Our agency members are statutorily charged with enforcing the human rights laws and work to prevent discrimination, bias, and hate. Our mission is to unite, educate, and strengthen state and local government human rights agencies.

In October 2023, I was so proud to be invited to represent IAOHRA at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, Switzerland. I joined the largest United States delegation ever for the UN Human Rights Committee 139th session for the consideration of the United States’ fifth periodic report on compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and several civil society briefings and consultations. IOAHRA’s contribution was to primarily to advocate for the establishment of a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) in the United States—similar to the 120 other democratic counties in the world. NHRIs are charged with an independent national leadership role to promote, facilitate, and coordinate human rights implementation and provide support and guidance to state and local human rights commissions.

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Currently, there is no federal infrastructure in the U.S. to support human rights education, monitoring, or implementation—nor is there a comprehensive approach to human rights that incorporates all levels of government. Consequently, state and local officials are often unaware of their obligations stemming from U.S. ratified treaties like the ICCPR. An NHRI would support unprecedented progress toward domestic implementation of 3 key human rights treaties ratified 30 years ago. 

Multiple civil society coalition letters and reports have been sent to the U.S. federal government urging the establishment of an NHRI. In December 2022, more than 100 civil society organizations sent a letter[1]to the White House Domestic Policy Council supporting the creation of a commission to study the establishment of a U.S. NHRI. During the most recent Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) Review, the U.S. NHRI was a central focus for IAOHRA. Additionally, in March 2023, IAOHRA sent a letter[2]to the Biden Administration and the U.S. Congress delineating the critical need for an NHRI.

On November 3, 2023, in its Concluding Observations[3] the United Nations Human Rights Committee which monitors implementation of the ICCPR highlighted concerns over the lack of progress toward the establishment of a U.S. NHRI. The Human Rights Committee went on to reiterate its previous recommendations from nearly a decade ago, stating that the U.S. should establish an independent NHRI as a matter of priority, with a mandate to ensure implementation of the Covenant and monitor compliance with its provisions at the federal, state, local, and territorial levels.

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Representing IAOHRA to advocate for a U.S. NHRI on such an esteemed global platform, helped expand and promote our international presence, leveraged meaningful collaborations, and could lead to significant long-term benefits for the United States. The insights, connections, and experiences gained in Geneva are pivotal in influencing the establishment of an independent NHRI in the United States in accordance with the Paris Principles. We must remain optimistic that a U.S. NHRI will be established to amplify the voices of state, local, and territorial human rights agencies at the national level.

Attending the sessions in Geneva was a critical opportunity to bolster the global impact of IAOHRA through meaningful engagement with international actors. These important connections provide a gateway to unite, educate, and strengthen human rights, as well as establish IAOHRA as a thought leader and resource on the international stage. 

I am so proud of our IAOHRA member agencies who actively engage in enforcing anti-discrimination laws, as well as educating to protect fundamental rights—which advance the principles of the ICCPR daily. Our work is critical to giving international human rights meaning at the state, local, and territorial level. IAOHRA will continue to advocate for the creation of U.S. NHRI as part of its unwavering commitment to bring human rights home to the United States. 

 

Additional Resources

Posted December 1, 2023

PHRC LAUNCHES SOCIAL JUSTICE AMBASSADOR PROGRAM
 

Harrisburg, PA- The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) is pleased to announce the creation of the PHRC Social Justice Ambassador Program. PHRC invites Pennsylvania residents and/or employees who support the mission to cultivate a Pennsylvania where all people can live, work and learn free from unlawful discrimination to apply for ambassadorship.
 

PHRC envisions at least one Ambassador for each county in Pennsylvania to serve that area’s unique community needs. Each Ambassador will be appointed by the PHRC to serve as a liaison and an extension of its outreach effort within a community. The Ambassador will act on a non-partisan basis to refer citizens for services and to assist the Commission in exploring training, outreach, and event opportunities in their respective community to further its anti-discrimination efforts in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, and education.

 

“The Commonwealth is comprised of 67 counties, with only three regional offices, which means PHRC is not always accessible,” said PHRC Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW. “Through our Advisory Councils and now our Social Justice Ambassadors, the PHRC will be able to reach more people and provide them with a valuable service. We want everyone in Pennsylvania to know that discrimination is illegal and the PHRC will protect your rights.”

 

Those interested in becoming a PHRC Social Justice Ambassador, must submit an application to ra-hrambsprogram@pa.gov.  References will be requested and checked to verify the individual’s submitted information. Prior to appointment, the Ambassador will attend an interview panel. To learn more about the PHRC Social Justice Ambassador Program, visit the PHRC website, www.phrc.pa.gov. Questions can be directed to Kurt Jung at kjung@pa.gov.

 

The PHRC, the state’s leading social justice enforcement agency, urges anyone who has experienced acts of discrimination or hate to file a complaint with the PHRC by calling 717-787-4410.  Information and resources are also available at www.PHRC.pa.gov

Posted May 11, 2023

 

 

 

TENNESSEE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AND FORMER IAOHRA PRESIDENT, BEVERLY WATTS ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT


NASHVILLE,TN (February 9, 2022) -Beverly Watts today announced her retirement as executive director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission (THRC). The announcement was made at the February 9th THRC Personnel Committee meeting. Watts will serve in her role through February 15, 2022.


Watts was appointed as the executive director in July 2007 and has over 30-years of experience in human and civil rights education and enforcement in the public and private sector.


In addition to her service at THRC, Watts has served in leadership roles at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), National Fair Housing Training Academy, and the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. She is the recipient of several awards and honors for her leadership.


Board Chair Robin Derryberry said, “I would like to thank Director Watts for her service to this agency which is greatly appreciated.”


Personnel Committee Chair Annazette Houston said, “Director Watts, I thank you for your service to the agency.”
Former THRC Commissioner and author of the Tennessee Human Rights Act, Jocelyn Wurzburg said, “I want to thank Ms. Watts for bringing the Commission into the fold of those who really cared about eliminating discrimination, I thank you for your service."


The Tennessee NAACP State Conference President, Gloria Sweet-Love said, “Director Watts has served the citizens of Tennessee with distinction, we appreciate and salute her.”


Deputy Director Muriel Malone Nolen will act as interim executive director for the agency.
The Commission's role is to enforce the state’s anti-discrimination laws which prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation based on race, creed, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, age (40 and over in employment), familial status (housing only), and retaliation in employment, housing and public accommodations and coordinate compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It is the mission of the Commission to safeguard individuals from discrimination through education and enforcement.

 

Posted February , 9, 2022

 

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