Race & Ethnicity

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From indigenous activism around self-determination and environmental protection to movements against discrimination, inequality, and police brutality, racial and ethnic justice is a transversal dimension in human rights work. Historically, however, human rights has had a complicated relationship to racism and colonization. What are the strengths and limitations of a human rights framework, and how can the human rights movement better support, serve, and integrate racial and ethnic justice in its practice?


When the Ferguson uprising came to Geneva

By: Joel R. Pruce

A shadow report presented to the Committee Against Torture brought police brutality in the US to an international human rights scenario.

Activists face police surveillance outside protest settings in Minnesota

By: Isabel Huot-Link & Angela Rose Myers & Socorro Topete

Protesters of African descent, victims of police brutality, and their families need accountability and healing to find justice.

The Human Rights Council’s failure to protect Uyghurs in China—for now

By: Michiel Hoornick
Español | Français

It seemed that economic and political concerns drove several countries to vote against a resolution to discuss the human rights for Uyghurs in China.

The injustice of the death penalty for drug offenses

By: Giada Girelli

Is justice really ‘just’ when it puts to death the vulnerable and the powerless?

Vaccine inequity deepens structural racial discrimination

By: Ohene Ampofo-Anti & Camila Barretto Maia & Joshua Castellino & Pillkyu Hwang
Español | Français | العربية

Institutional failures enabling global COVID inequity can also deepen structural discrimination.

A language of no importance: the consequences of neglecting marginalized languages in the digital world

By: Jacqueline Rowe
Español | Kiriol

Most major platforms and services are still only available or functional in a small number of geopolitically dominant languages.

Plato's Cave has an exit: Using data to illuminate human rights

By: Rodrigo Dornelles
Español | Português

A data-centered approach is fundamental in understanding our institutions and designing more effective strategies.

Is the current rights framework sufficient to protect the stateless?

By: Anne Lauder

Here’s how the existing human rights framework confronts statelessness and the gaps that remain.

Humor and human rights: a joke with no punchline?

By: Nicolas Agostini
Español | Français

Humor was one of the best allies to human rights. Today, as some point to its oppressive uses, it has come under fire.

Haitian migration through the Western hemisphere: a racial (in)justice analysis

By: S. Priya Morley

A transnational racial justice lens is essential to understand recent Haitian migration through the Americas, but also to develop any future policy responses.

The challenges of sharing the unknown history of the South African constitution

By: Lauren Segal & Lwando Xaso
Español | Français

A new online archive and exhibition tells the little-known stories and behind-the-scenes challenges of the country's constitution.

How the global human rights community can further push drug policy reform

By: Ricky Gunawan

After a recent study revealed that drug law enforcement often targets poor people and vulnerable groups, the UN Working Group calls for the decriminalization of ...

Particular universals: human rights depend on identity politics

By: Amyn B. Sajoo

Romanticizing the universal at the expense of local, subjective truths fails to account for how we arrive at global rights in the first place.

We should be teaching for human rights, not teaching about human rights: a response to Agostini

By: Claudio Schuftan

Agostini neither offers a solution to what human rights defenders are supposed to do differently nor does he offer examples of how identity-based movements undermine ...

The excesses of identity-based activism undermine human rights

By: Nicolas Agostini
Español | Français

How an overemphasis on subjectivity and lived experience in activism leads to expanding the scope of restrictions and ultimately threatening universal rights

Reckoning with racism against Black migrants in Mexico

By: S. Priya Morley

Now is the time for Mexico to address the anti-Black racism, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination that impact Black migrants in the country.

“We are jimcrowed:” Marcus Garvey and the 1920 Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World

By: Steven L. B. Jensen

The story of the 1920 Declaration can help us rebalance how we approach human rights history and make it more representative in terms of substance and agency.

Protesting for racial justice, met with excessive force

By: Donna McKay & Michele Heisler

McKay and Heisler reflect on the role of medical personnel when treating patients victims of excessive police force.

Recent developments in the UN Human Rights Council offer new opportunities to combat racism and police brutality

By: Peter Splinter

Time will tell whether Resolution 43/1 will dispose Human Rights Council membership to address situations of gross and systematic violations in other countries ...

Focusing on “identity” can essentialize rather than liberate people

By: Pablo Abitbol

By centering resistances on ​​identity, we might unknowingly reproduce the discourses that essentialize it.

Cosmopolitanism’s abstraction can blind us to damaging hierarchies of humanity

By: Joe Hoover

Appeals to humanity and the pronouncement of universal standards are empty (or worse) if they don’t begin with the difficult work of identifying and dismantling ...

A post-pandemic world: well-being for all or deepening inequality?

By: Guillermo Torres

Putting fear aside as we emerge from this pandemic will allow space for what we value most in people: empathy, solidarity and mutual support.

From Toyi-toyi to “I Can’t Breathe”: African lessons in protest and liberation

By: Emerson Sykes

Americans seeking racial justice can learn a lot about protest and liberation from Africans.

Unprecedented ruling for Indigenous peoples by Inter-American Court of Human Rights

By: Matías Duarte & Diego Morales & Erika Schmidhuber Peña

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has set a precedent with its decision to grant territorial and ancestral rights to Indigenous peoples in Argentina—how ...

Businesses for Black Lives Matter: a human rights-based approach

By: Manel Chibane

What role do corporations have in advocating for the rights of Black people and other racialized populations?

Why #BlackLivesMatter is about the right to life

By: Eseohe Ojo

The current protests should come as no surprise in the face of such blatant disregard of the human rights of Black people and the systemic, institutional and everyday ...

Learning from Dalit women fighting for land rights in Punjab

By: Tarini Manchanda
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ | Español | हिन्दी

In Punjab—where about 32% of people are Dalit—Dalit women are fighting for the right to cultivate land, and they are winning.

Waorani women resist Ecuador’s extractive agenda in the Amazon

By: Vanessa Daza Castillo
Español | Português

Indigenous women in Ecuador are standing up to an extractive industry that has displaced vulnerable communities and concentrated land ownership in the hands of ...

Indigenous women in Kenya rebuild resilience amidst an eco-cultural crisis

By: Wangũi wa Kamonji
Español | Português

In the face of growing climate change, indigenous women in Kenya are remembering and reinstating their native agricultural practices, to build resilience and reclaim ...

Imprisonment as a last resort? Reforming Brazil’s prisons

By: Náthaly Calixto

Systematic discrimination means that—despite vocational programs—many prisoners in Brazil and elsewhere end up with less opportunities than before they were incarcerated.

Treaty pushes for environmental justice in Latin America and the Caribbean

By: Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah

Despite closing space for civil society, the new Escazú Agreement—which offers protection measures for environmental groups and defenders—is a shining example of ...

Decolonizing human rights: local struggles with global dynamics

By: Salil Shetty

Human rights have always been subject to efforts at misappropriation and manipulation for political ends—but power and agency must remain in the hands of those ...

Legal empowerment allows indigenous Ecuadoreans to fight multinationals

By: Juan Auz

Activism against environmental exploitation in Ecuador requires going up against titanic powers, and legal empowerment has helped indigenous groups do just that.

Fighting for indigenous rights in the Trump era

By: Tereza M. Szeghi

American Indians are actively resisting Trump’s efforts and working to achieve their civil and human rights, even as US federal and state governments work to erode ...

How not to produce energy: lessons from Brazil’s Belo Monte dam

By: Astrid Puentes Riaño
Español | Português

Due to lack of community consultation and negative socio-environmental impacts, the Belo Monte dam in the Brazilian Amazon has become a prime example of how not ...

Indigenous rights in the Russian Arctic: self-determining communities or stakeholders?

By: Laura A. Henry

When indigenous rights are not observed, communities that shift their demands from the state to the corporation may trade in one form of power imbalance for another.

Imagining justice for ethnic communities in Colombia

By: Helen Kerwin

Reparations for conflict-related harms as set out in the peace accords are only a fraction of many pending debts owed to Colombia’s ethnic communities.

International pressure on US human rights matters now more than ever

By: Kathryn Sikkink
Español | Français

Domestic politics are important, but we need international human rights law in the United States now more than ever.

No data, no accountability: solving racial violence in the United States

By: Samuel L. Myers Jr.

Without adequate data, the US racial divide remains a matter of perception, rather than of careful empirical analysis.

Decolonization—not western liberals—established human rights on the global agenda

By: Steven L. B. Jensen

Human rights scholarship and advocacy claim to be grounded in universality, yet both are anything but in their privileging the Western role in building an international ...

Why America needs a truth commission

By: Todd Landman 

In the United States, gun deaths over the last three decades far exceed those reported in truth commissions and civil wars around the world in the 1970s, 1980s ...

No middle ground: the risks of being a human rights defender in India

By: Mathew Jacob

Volunteers in India are banding together to form a network that protects human rights defenders.

Can we decolonise human rights?

By: José-Manuel Barreto

"Who defines the concept of human rights?" Stephen Hopgood asks. The answer will come from a new North-South dialogue building on the foundations of the dominant ...

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