Los Angeles County Community and Senior Services
For Immediate Release Press contact: Patricia Senette 213-738-2065
May 26, 2010 Rachel Hamrick 202-236-1374
For the First Time, State Department Asks State and Local Human Rights
Agencies to Help US Comply with its Human Rights Treaty Obligations
The Human Rights at Home Campaign applauds the US Government’s unprecedented outreach and call for resources for state and local agencies
Washington, DC—In an unprecedented outreach effort, the US State Department recently sent a letter to state and local human rights commissions across the country inviting them to contribute to the US government’s human rights treaty reporting efforts. As a party to several core human rights treaties, the United States is obligated to report periodically on its progress in advancing the rights set forth in the treaties to the United Nations monitoring body with jurisdiction over each treaty.
“Many state and local human rights/relations agencies around the country are already using international human rights standards to promote equality, dignity, fairness and opportunity in their communities,” said Leon Russell, President of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies (IAOHRA).
One example of the work being done by state and local human relations and rights agencies around the country is the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission (HRC).
“Our commission recognizes that we are part of a global community, and sees the value of applying an international human rights framework at home in our communities to make a real difference in people’s lives,” said Dr. Sandra E. Thomas, President of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission.
“The Commission produces an annual report analyzing hate crimes in L.A. County, and is currently embarking on a campaign drawing on human rights to address rising violence against people who are homeless,” added Robin S. Toma, HRC Executive Director, IAOHRA Board member, and President of the California Association of Human Relations Organizations.
The Human Rights at Home Campaign is a collaboration of more than 50 U.S. based organizations that are calling for a strengthened commitment to human rights at home and abroad. There are over 150 state and local government human rights/relations commissions or agencies established by state, county or city governments to promote and enforce human and civil rights, further positive race and intergroup relations, and/or to conduct research, training and public education and issue policy recommendations.
Unfortunately, state and local human rights agencies face serious resource constraints in fulfilling their mission and meeting their current mandates. Federal assistance in the form of dedicated staff, education and training, and funding would alleviate some of the burden and enable state and local agencies to engage more fully with the federal government in the human rights reporting and implementation efforts.
“In addition to federal resources, in order to effectively strengthen institutional support for human rights, federal mechanisms must be put in place to help ensure strong partnerships with state and local agencies and institutions,” stated Risa E. Kaufman, Executive Director of the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School, and member of the steering committee of the Human Rights at Home Campaign. The Human Rights at Home Campaign is calling for the President of the U.S. to issue an Executive Order creating a renewed federal Inter Agency Working Group on Human Rights which would include as part of its mandate enhanced collaboration and coordination between federal and state and local governments with the goal of helping the US to meets its obligations to respect, protect and fulfill human rights for all.”
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