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State and Local Human Rights Agencies:
Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality
Through an International Human Rights Framework

Columbia Law School, Human Rights Institute
International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies
under the auspices of

The Campaign for a New Domestic Human Rights Agenda

State and Local Human Rights Agencies:
Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality
Through an International Human Rights Framework

Columbia Law School, Human Rights Institute
International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies
under the auspices of

The Campaign for a New Domestic Human Rights Agenda

State and Local Human Rights Agencies

Table of Contents
Introduction: Why Human Rights?  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 1
What Are Human Rights?  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 3
Overview of Human Rights System .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 4
International Human Rights Treaties  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 4
International and Regional Monitoring Bodies .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 4
The Role of State and Local Agencies in Ensuring
Human Rights Compliance  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 6
Case Studies .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 7
Portland, Oregon  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 7
Washington State  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 7
San Francisco, California .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 8
Chicago, Illinois .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 9
Eugene, Oregon .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 9
Los Angeles, California .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 10
Best Practices and Recommended Actions  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 11
Monitoring and Documenting Human Rights Issues .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 11
Assessing Local Policy and Practice in Light of
International Standards  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 12
Engaging in Human Rights Education  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 12
Incorporating Human Rights Principles Into Advocacy Efforts .  .  .  .  . 12
Investigating Human Rights Complaints  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 13
Coordinating and Implementing Local Policy to Integrate
Human Rights Principles  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 13
Federal Reforms to Provide Enhanced Support for State and
 Local Human Rights Implementation  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 14
Two Key Reforms: Interagency Working Group on Human Rights
and U.S. Civil and Human Rights Commission . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Strategies for Successful Engagement of State and Local Human
Rights and Human Relations Commissions  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 15
Dedicated Staff  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 15
Education and Training .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 15
Funding .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 16
Conclusion  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 17
Appendix .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 22
Appendix A: Resources and Contact Information .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 22
Appendix B: Eugene, Oregon Proclamation Declaring Local
Commitment to Human Rights  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 24
Appendix C: States, Cities, and Counties that have passed
Resolutions about CEDAW .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 25
Appendix D: Supporting and Implementing International
Human Rights Locally .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 26

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

State and Local Human Rights Agencies

Acknowledgements
This report is a joint project of Columbia Law School’s Human
Rights Institute and the International Association of Official
Human Rights Agencies, under the auspices of the Campaign for
a New Domestic Human Rights Agenda. Risa Kaufman, executive director of Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute,
developed and supervised the project and drafted the report.
Robin Toma, executive director of the Los Angeles County
Human Relations Commission and board member of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies, helped
to conceptualize and develop the project and edited and contributed to drafts of the report. Joie Chowdhury, Sam Yospe and
Erin Foley Smith, interns with Columbia Law School’s Human
Rights Institute, conducted extensive interviews, and, along with
Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic students Emma
Neff, Christopher Buerger and Darren Sullivan, contributed
research and assisted with drafting the report. JoAnn Kamuf
Ward of Fordham Law School also reviewed and edited drafts
of the report. Professor Peter Rosenblum, faculty co-director of
Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, provided valuable guidance on this project, and Victoria Esquivel-Korsiak,
program coordinator for Columbia Law School’s Human Rights
Institute, oversaw the report’s design and production.
	 We are grateful to the many state and local human rights and
human relations commission members and staff and human
rights advocates who shared their expertise and insights in
interviews conducted in preparation for this report, including:
María Lisa Johnson, director of the Office of Human Relations
of Portland (Oregon); Marc Brenman, former executive director of the Washington State Human Rights Commission; Ken
Neubeck, member of the City of Eugene Human Rights Commission; Stephen Glassman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission; Diana Bohn, member of the
Berkeley Peace & Justice Commission; Barbara Jones, director
of the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission; Roslyn Solomon,
commissioner of the Seattle Human Rights Commission; Julie
Nelson, director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights; Larry
Brinkin, senior contract compliance officer at the San Francisco
Human Rights Commission; Ann Lehman, senior CEDAW
policy analyst, and Anu Menon, CEDAW policy analyst, at the
San Francisco Department on the Status of Women; Cynthia
Fox, executive staff advisor of the Kentucky Commission on
Human Rights; Rose Daitsman and Diane Lindsley, co-coordi-

nators of the Greater Milwaukee Human Rights Coalition; and
Ann Fagan Ginger of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute.
	 Under the auspices of the American Constitution Society,
Professor Catherine Powell of Fordham Law School authored
Human Rights at Home: A Domestic Policy Blueprint for the New
Administration, which sets forth the basis for recommendations
at the heart of the Federal Reforms section of this report, and
inspired the Campaign for a New Domestic Human Rights
Agenda. The Campaign is comprised of over 50 social justice
organizations, including major human rights, civil rights, civil liberties and economic justice groups, working to advance the Blueprint’s recommendations to build human rights into the baseline
of government. Members of the Campaign’s Subcommittee on
State and Local Government Coordination, including Professor
Martha Davis of Northeastern School of Law; Ajamu Baraka of
the U.S. Human Rights Network; Ejim Dike of the Urban Justice Center’s Human Rights Project; Professor Tara Melish of
University at Buffalo Law School; Marea Beeman of the Harvard Kennedy School; Eric Tars of the National Law Center on
Homelessness and Poverty; Professor Debra Liebowitz of Drew
University; and Jamil Dakwar of the ACLU Human Rights
Program, helped to develop the report’s recommendations for
strengthening state and local implementation of human rights.
	 We thank, too, the many additional individuals who provided
critical guidance and feedback on this project, as well as contributed key information, including: Leon Russell, president of
IAOHRA and director of the Pinellas County Office of Human
Rights; Cathy Albisa of the National Economic and Social Rights
Initiative; Margaret Huang of the Rights Working Group; Professor Lisa Crooms of Howard University School of Law; Juhu
Thukral of The Opportunity Agenda; Laura Murphy of Laura W.
Murphy, LLC; Cynthia Soohoo of the Center for Reproductive
Rights; Professor Sandra Babcock of Northwestern University
Law School; Sarah Albert of the YWCA USA; Professor Jonathan Todres of Georgia State University College of Law; and
Tanya Coke and Sue Simon of the U.S. Human Rights Fund.
This report was generously supported by the U.S. Human
Rights Fund, a donor collaborative, through its Sub-fund
for Domestic Human Rights Accountability. The report was
undertaken under the auspices of the Campaign for a New
Domestic Human Rights Agenda.

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

Introduction: Why Human Rights? 1

introduction:

Why Human Rights?
Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they
cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives
in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man,
woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights
have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to
home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.
—Eleanor Roosevelt 1
International human rights law and standards provide a powerful framework for ensuring the respect and protection of
dignity, well-being and equality for all people, by simple virtue
of their humanity.
	 Human rights are central to American ideals of fairness
and opportunity, and indeed the United States has a rich,
if inconsistent, history of developing, supporting and nurturing the concept and substance of international human
rights. Our country was founded on the ideals of equality and dignity; they are embedded in our Declaration of
Independence and formed the inspiration and catalyst for
the abolitionist movement and women’s suffrage. Franklin
Roosevelt articulated the importance of ensuring the full
range of civil, political, economic and social rights in his
Four Freedoms Speech to Congress in 1941, and the United
States, under the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, played a
critical role in developing and drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the foundational human
rights document.2
	 There is currently broad support for human rights by the
American public. A majority of Americans, 80%, believe that
“every person has basic rights regardless of whether their government recognizes those rights or not.”3 Most Americans
agree that many social justice issues can be viewed through
a human rights lens: there is significant support for framing
guarantees related to equal opportunity, non-discrimination
and freedom from abuse by law enforcement as human rights
guarantees, as well as substantive rights, such as access to health
care, fair pay and the right to live in a clean environment.4

More than eight in ten Americans “strongly agree” that
the following are human rights:
Equal opportunities regardless of gender (86%);
Equal opportunities regardless of race (85%);
Being treated fairly in the criminal justice system (83%);
Freedom from discrimination (83%);
Freedom from torture or abuse by law enforcement
(83%); and
Equal access to quality public education (82%).
Majorities also “strongly” believe meeting people’s
basic needs are human rights, including:
Access to health care (72% );
Living in a clean environment (68%);
Fair pay for workers to meet the basic needs for food
and housing (68%); and
Keeping personal behavior and choices private (60%).
Source: The Opportunity Agenda, “Human Rights in the U.S.: Opinion
Research with Advocates, Journalists, and the General Public” 3-4
(2007), available at http://opportunityagenda.org/files/field_file/
Human%20Rights%20Report%20-%202007%20public%20
opinion.pdf.

	 A basic tenet of the human rights framework is that human
rights must start at home, and must involve and reflect the
needs and expertise of local communities. Realization of
human rights requires local decision-making, as well as strong
cooperation and collaboration between local, state and fed-

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

2 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

eral government, and between government and civil society.5
Moreover, state and local implementation of human rights can
eventually help to influence national policy and broader acceptance of international human rights norms.6
	 State and local human rights agencies can play a critical role
in promoting and protecting human rights close to home.
State and local human rights and human relations commissions already operate every day to prevent and eliminate discrimination. These institutions have multiple functions that
include enforcing anti-discrimination laws, engaging in community education and training and advocacy. Central to their
mission is encouraging and facilitating institutional change
to eradicate discrimination and promote equal opportunity.
Thus, advancing human rights protections intersects with
and, in fact, supports the work of state and local human
rights and human relations commissions to encourage and
ensure fairness and opportunity locally.
	 This report highlights ways in which an international
human rights framework can advance the critical work of
state and local human rights and human relations commissions and other state and local agencies, and recommends
reforms at the national level that would result in more effective articulation between local, state and federal efforts.

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

What Are Human Rights? 3

What Are Human Rights?
Human rights are internationally recognized and accepted
norms and values that recognize and promote dignity, fairness and opportunity for all people and enable individuals to
meet their basic needs. These norms recognize the inherent
interrelationship between civil, political, social, economic
and cultural rights. Furthermore, a human rights framework
places an affirmative obligation on governments to respect,
protect and fulfill these rights.

Duty to Respect
The duty to respect is the most basic and traditional
governmental duty regarding rights. The duty to respect
means that governments must not take an action that
interferes with or curtails a person’s enjoyment of his or
her rights.
Duty to Protect
To effectively protect human rights, governments must
protect individuals and groups against human rights
abuses by third parties.
Duty to Fulfill
The duty to fulfill requires governments to take positive action to realize a person’s enjoyment of his or her
human rights.
Duty to Not Discriminate
The duty of equality and non-discrimination means that
governments must promote equality and not discriminate on the basis of a list of categories such as sex, race,
color, property, etc.

	 These obligations require that the government: refrain from
action that interferes with or curtails a person’s enjoyment of
her or his rights; protect individuals and groups from human
rights abuses by third parties; and take positive steps to realize
the enjoyment of an individual’s human rights. A human rights
framework also calls upon the government to promote equality and non-discrimination on the basis of categories such as
sex, race, color, language, religion and property.
	 By recognizing the interdependence of civil, political, economic and social rights, the human rights framework also
underscores that in order to achieve dignity, equality and freedom, every person must be able to meet his or her basic needs.
The human rights framework thus obligates the government
to progressively create conditions under which individuals’
basic needs can be met, guaranteeing certain rights—including the right to health, the right to housing and the right to
education—that may not be guaranteed under the federal
constitution, although in some cases they may be guaranteed
under state constitutions.
	 Thus, an international human rights framework articulates
governments’ responsibility for taking measured, concerted
steps to respond to a full range of issues facing local communities, including race discrimination, poverty, hunger, disease,
unemployment and other socioeconomic crises.
	 In pursuing these aims, a human rights framework emphasizes the need to ensure transparency, accountability and
participation in government through mechanisms including
human rights education, and monitoring, documenting and
reporting human rights abuses. Finally, a human rights framework calls for mechanisms to enforce human rights norms,
including complaint procedures and private rights of action,
among others.

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

4 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

Overview of Human Rights System
Human rights principles are derived from a set of international documents, including charters and treaties, and are
clarified, monitored and enforced by a number of committees, experts, commissions and courts. This section provides
an introduction to the framework of treaties and monitoring
bodies that form key components of the international human
rights system.

International Human Rights Treaties

The United States has ratified three of the core international
human rights treaties:
•	 the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR), which protects most traditional
civil rights, including voting, speech and religion;
•	 the International Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which
protects against racial discrimination in both civil
and political, as well as economic and social rights,
such as education, housing and healthcare; and
•	 the Convention Against Torture (CAT), which
prohibits torture as well as other cruel, inhuman
or degrading treatment or punishment.
	 The U.S. has signed but not ratified other treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the
Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the Convention on the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). 	
	 Treaties that the United States has ratified are binding
under the Supremacy Clause,7 but their provisions are not
always directly enforceable in United States courts.8 The
United States has international obligations with respect to a
treaty it has signed, but not ratified, even though such a treaty
is not domestic law.9
	 The chart opposite sets forth a non-exhaustive list of
human rights charters and treaties and the United States’
relation to each.

International and Regional
Monitoring Bodies

Many human rights treaties establish permanent bodies made
up of independent experts charged with monitoring countries’
compliance with their human rights treaty obligations. Countries are required to periodically report to these monitoring
bodies. Civil society also has an opportunity to provide an
assessment of compliance with treaty obligations. Ultimately,
the treaty body issues Concluding Observations, summarizing concerns and recommendations that it feels the country
under review should address.
	 In addition, the United Nations Human Rights Council10
reviews the human rights records of all 192 United Nations
Member States once every four years through the Universal
Periodic Review process.11 This mechanism, created in 2006,
is meant to provide an opportunity for each country to discuss what actions it has taken to fulfill its human rights obligations and presents non-governmental organizations with an
opportunity to advocate for greater protection or publicize
human rights violations. The United States comes up for
review by the Council for the first time in 2010.
	 In addition to the UN system described above, the United
States participates in the Inter-American Human Rights
System through its membership in the Organization of
American States (OAS). In this system, the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American
Court of Human Rights operate to promote and protect
human rights. The Court is based in San José, Costa Rica;
the Commission is based in Washington, D.C.12 The InterAmerican Court does not have jurisdiction to hear individual complaints brought against the United States, as the
United States has not ratified the American Convention
on Human Rights and the Optional Protocol granting the
court jurisdiction. The Inter-American Commission, however, can hear individual complaints brought against the
United States—an advocacy avenue increasingly pursued by
American advocates.

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

Description

Signed
by U.S.
President

Ratified
by U.S.
Senate

Adopted in 1948, the UDHR is the oldest international human rights
charter. The Universal Declaration, which recognizes civil liberties and
socioeconomic rights, serves as a joint charter from which the twin international covenants, below, were born. The UDHR is a declaration, and
not a binding treaty. Nevertheless, many of its provisions may be considered customary international law. The United States supported—indeed,
was instrumental in—drafting the UDHR.

N/A

N/A

International Covenant on
Economic, Social, and
Cultural Rights
(ICESCR)14

The ICESCR is the principal human rights treaty regarding economic and
social rights, and protects the rights to housing, work, social security, the
highest attainable standard of health and the continuous improvement of
living conditions. The ICESCR prohibits all forms of discrimination in
the enjoyment of these rights.



International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR)15

The ICCPR protects a broad range of civil and political rights, including
the right to life, freedom of association, the right to be free from torture and
slavery, non-discrimination, and certain fair trial rights.





International Convention on ICERD is the principal human rights treaty on racial discrimination, and
the Elimination of All Forms the United States is a party to ICERD. The treaty specifically prohibits
of Racial Discrimination
discrimination in the areas of voting, education, health, housing, property,
social security, and employment, among others.
(ICERD)16





Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination Against
Women (CEDAW)17

CEDAW is the principal human rights treaty on sex discrimination, which
provides for women’s equal access to—and equal opportunities in—private, political and public life. As of March 2009, 185 nations were parties
to CEDAW.18



Convention on the Rights
of the Child (CRC)19

The CRC is the principal human rights treaty on the rights of children.
The United States is one of only three countries not to have ratified the
Convention, making the CRC one of the most widely ratified treaties in
the international human rights system. 20



Convention on the Rights
of Persons with Disabilities
(CRPD)21

The CRPD promotes the rights of disabled persons to equal protection,
equal participation and accessibility, and provides special protection for
women and children with disabilities. It entered into force in March 2008.
As of July 2009, the Convention had been signed by 140 countries and
ratified by 62.



Convention Against
Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment
(CAT)22

The CAT prohibits torture and requires signatories to ensure that all acts of
torture constitute an offense under their criminal law. It also prohibits extradition to another country where there are substantial grounds for believing
that the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture there. The
CAT was implemented in the U.S. through the Torture Victim Protection
Act of 1991.23





International Convention
for the Protection of All
Persons from Enforced
Disappearances24

The Convention Against Enforced Disappearances prohibits governments
from engaging in abduction and secret detention of any individual and
affirms the rights of victims to know the truth about the circumstances and
fate of disappeared persons. It was adopted by the UN General Assembly
on December 20, 2006, and has not yet entered into force.

International Convention on
the Protection of the Rights
of All Migrant Workers and
Members of their Families25

The Migrant Workers Convention promotes the human rights of migrant
workers and their families, stressing, importantly, the fundamental rights
of both documented and undocumented migrants. It has been ratified by
41 countries.





N/A

N/A

Treaty or Declaration
Universal Declaration of
Human Rights (UDHR)13

Charter of the Organization The OAS Charter and the American Declaration together create obligations to guarantee a broad range of civil, political, economic and social
of American States
rights. As an OAS member state, the United States is bound by the Charter;
(OAS Charter)26
however, the American Declaration on Human Rights is not a treaty, and is
American Declaration on the therefore not a direct source of binding law. But the U.S. is arguably bound
Rights and Duties of Man27
by the provisions of the American Declaration through its ratification of
the Charter.28
American Convention on
Human Rights (American
Convention)29

The American Convention codifies the OAS Charter. The Convention
focuses primarily on civil and political rights, and also imposes a duty on
countries to undertake to progressively realize economic and social rights.



6 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

The Role of State and Local Agencies in Ensuring
Human Rights Compliance
State and local human rights and human relations commissions can play a key role in ensuring broad human rights compliance within the United States. There are over 150 state
and local government commissions or agencies mandated by
state, county or city governments to enforce human and civil
rights, and/or to conduct research, training and public education and issue policy recommendations on human intergroup
relations and civil and human rights.30 Many are longstanding,
created prior to the 1960s civil rights movement. Most are
organized into non-profit associations that are international
(e.g., International Association of Official Human Rights
Agencies, or IAOHRA),31 national (e.g., National Association
of Human Rights Workers, or NAHRW),32 or state-wide (e.g.,
California Association of Human Relations Organizations, or
CAHRO)33 in scope. Along with their state and local partner
agencies and community-based non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), these institutions and associations provide an established infrastructure that can serve as a
resource in developing a national network of state and local
human rights agencies to effectively advance the implementation of international human rights principles and standards
close to home.
	 Such state and local involvement in human rights protection
and promotion is entirely consistent with our federal system.
Under Article VI(2) of the U.S. Constitution, ratified treaties
are the “Supreme Law of the Land; and the judges in every State
shall be bound thereby.” Moreover, in consenting to each of the
treaties the U.S. has ratified, the United States Senate has noted
that in light of our federal system, human rights treaty obligations will be implemented by state and local governments to
the extent that they exercise jurisdiction over such matters.34 In
fact, an examination of the text of the treaties reveals that they
cover much of what state and local human rights and human
relations commissions already deal with every day—including
addressing police brutality and discrimination in housing and
employment, and promoting freedom of religion.
	 Indeed, human rights treaties are intended to be implemented at the local level, with a great deal of democratic
input. For example, these treaties provide mechanisms and

opportunities for reporting on conditions within communities (both positive and negative); training government officials and agencies as well as the community to promote equality and non-discrimination; conducting hearings to explore
and examine the relevance of findings by international treaty
bodies; and issuing recommendations for future action. They
also provide a set of standards that local governments should
adhere to in administering their own laws and policies.
	 Thus, state and local human rights and human relations
commissions and other agencies can serve as appropriate and
effective sites for local implementation of international human
rights treaty obligations and norms.35 Specifically, they can:
•	 collect information and report on human rights
compliance at the state and local level;
•	 assess local policy and practice in light of
international standards;
•	 educate the public and state and local agencies and
officials about international human rights standards;
•	 incorporate human rights principles into
advocacy efforts;
•	 investigate human rights complaints; and
•	 issue recommendations and guidance encouraging,
permitting or requiring governmental agencies to
consider and integrate human rights principles and
standards when creating new policies and legislation.
	 State and local commissions and other agencies may also
provide a critical avenue for the federal government to communicate effectively with states and municipalities regarding
their human rights treaty obligations.

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

The Role of State and Local Agencies 7

Case Studies

A number of state and local human rights and human relations commissions and other state and local government entities are
currently incorporating international human rights standards and strategies to advance their work. This section highlights a
number of recent examples.
Portland, Oregon
In March 2008, the City of Portland created a Human Rights
Commission that explicitly incorporates a human rights
framework. The Commission, created in conjunction with an
Office of Human Relations, is guided by international human
rights principles.36 Article II of its bylaws states:	
The Human Rights Commission shall work to eliminate
discrimination and bigotry, to strengthen inter-group
relationships and to foster greater understanding, inclusion and justice for those who live, work, study, worship,
travel and play in the City of Portland. In doing so, the
Human Rights Commission shall be guided by the principles embodied in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.37
	 Guided by the UDHR principles, the Commission has created a complaint mechanism that engages in documenting
and reporting a wide range of potential human rights violations, including abuse to the integrity of the person, denial
of education, abuse of civil rights and liberties, incidents of
bias, trafficking in persons and abuse of workers’ rights.38 The
Washington State
The Washington State Human Rights Commission, which
is charged with enforcing the state’s human rights statute,
engages a human rights framework through public education and advocacy. In conjunction with the 60th Anniversary
of the UDHR, the Commission drafted a Proclamation for
the Governor’s signature, declaring December 10, 2008, as
Human Rights Day.
	 The Commission has also integrated human rights standards into its advocacy work.43 For example, in 2007, the
Commission embarked on a project to document, analyze
and address the severe lack of housing for farm workers in the
state. The Commission primarily explored the issue through
the lens of discrimination against farm workers on the bases

Commission refers complainants to attorneys or supportive
organizations whenever possible.39
	 The Human Rights Commission is also engaged in broad
education and outreach efforts. It declared 2009 as a year
of Human Rights Learning and committed itself to raising awareness about the UDHR and what the rights covered by the Declaration mean in practice to the residents
of Portland.40 The Commission’s website includes a link to
the text of the UDHR, as well as links to relevant pages of
the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights.41
	 The Commission is also engaged in a project to establish
a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to address
issues of racism and racial tension. Borrowing from conceptions of international transitional justice, the TRC would
offer a framework and forum for facilitated dialogue, information sharing and apology.42 As part of its efforts, the Commission recently hosted Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the chair
of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission
and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work defending
human rights in South Africa and around the world, to speak
about the transformative effect of reconciliation.
of race and national origin, drawing on its mandate to enforce
prohibitions against such discrimination contained in the
state’s anti-discrimination statute and federal fair housing
laws. In a report detailing its findings and recommendations
for resolving the housing crisis, the Commission discusses the
relevant domestic legal standards and also draws on international human rights principles.44 Specifically, the report highlights Article 25 of the UDHR:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate
for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care
and necessary social services, and the right to security in
the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances
beyond his control.

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

8 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

San Francisco, California
The San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women was
instrumental in enacting and implementing a local ordinance
that directly incorporates international human rights principles into the city’s functioning, resulting in real policy changes
that positively impact women and girls.
	 Beginning in 1997, a number of citizens’ groups worked
with the San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women
to hold hearings and engage in public education around
human rights, particularly as they apply to women and girls
in San Francisco. Following this educational process, the
Commission worked with citizens’ groups to develop a local
ordinance implementing the human rights principles of the
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) into local law.45 In April
1998, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed municipal ordinance 128-98, requiring the government agencies
and departments in San Francisco to implement the standards of CEDAW.46
	 The San Francisco ordinance requires the city to “integrate gender equity and human rights principles into all of its
operations” and contains a more expansive definition of discrimination than previously recognized. Specifically, it defines
discrimination against women to:
include, but not be limited to, any distinction, exclusion
or restriction made on the basis of sex that has the effect
or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition,
enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their
marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women,
of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.
	 The ordinance requires the city to eradicate all policies
that discriminate, including those that have a discriminatory
impact, and to proactively identify barriers to the exercise of
human rights. The ordinance also calls for human rights education for city departments and employees.
	 The ordinance designates the Commission on the Status
of Women as the implementing agency and requires that the
Commission conduct gender analyses on the budget, services

and employment practices of selected city departments to
identify barriers and discrimination against women.47
	 As a result of the gender analyses, the Commission identified myriad discriminatory practices, leading to policy
changes that benefit both women and men. For example, the
Commission discovered that certain jobs were overwhelmingly held by men. They found that many jobs—trash collection and jobs within the Department of the Environment,
for instance—required starting early in the morning, before
childcare was available. To address this inequity, the Department instituted more flexible work policies that, after a few
years, resulted in more women accessing these jobs.48 Other
departments instituted other changes, including establishing emergency ride home programs, making child care available to employees during non-traditional hours, allowing
for telecommuting and actively recruiting women for nontraditional jobs.49
	 Overall, the gender analysis required by the CEDAW ordinance resulted in an understanding that issues of work-life
balance needed attention in all city agencies.50 Beginning in
2001, the Commission on the Status of Women conducted
a city-wide gender analysis of work-life balance in thirtynine different city departments to identify any unintended
consequences that their policies and practices had on female
employees. It catalyzed attention to the issue city-wide and
facilitated specific policy changes within individual city agencies. The information collected through the work-life balance
study also helped support the paid parental leave legislation
that was passed in 2002.51
	 In addition, some departments also found that their services
had a discriminatory impact on city residents. For example,
the Department of Public Works considered street lighting
and noted in their gender analysis report that “a woman, in
particular, may fear sexual assault, making her feel more vulnerable than a man.” The Department concluded that improving lighting in dark streets, parking lots and public facilities
“creates a more equitable outcome: both women and men feel
safe walking down a street at night.”52
	 The CEDAW ordinance was amended in 2000 to include
the requirement that agencies take account of the effect of
various policies on racial and ethnic minorities.

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The Role of State and Local Agencies 9

Chicago, Illinois
The City of Chicago recently adopted a resolution in support of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the
Child (CRC).53 Specifically, the resolution calls for the city to
“advance policies and practices that are in harmony with the
principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in
all city agencies and organizations that address issues directly
affecting the City’s children.” Although non-binding in nature,
the resolution contains strong language pledging the city to
support the CRC principles and committing the city to promote policies and practices that are consistent with the principles and rights in the CRC. The guiding principle of the
Convention is doing what is in the best interests of the child.54
	 Sparked by a diverse coalition of advocates led by Northwestern University Law School’s Center for International

Eugene, Oregon
Eugene’s Human Rights Commission has recently dedicated
itself to promoting international human rights. In 2006, the
Commission adopted as part of its work plan a “Human
Rights City” Project, dedicated to exploring ways in which
the city government can implement international human
rights standards and principles in its overall operations. Specifically, the goals of the Project are: (1) ongoing research
on initiatives being undertaken in other municipalities; (2)
opening up conversations with elected city officials, city managers and staff and community members; and (3) proposing
action for the City Council that could include eventual revision of the City of Eugene’s Human Rights Ordinance.56
	 Thus far, the Commission has engaged in robust community education and outreach efforts, raising awareness about
the potential for an international human rights framework
to advance the equality and dignity of local residents.
After researching local implementation of human rights
and actively networking with advocacy organizations, the
Project created an informational web site, www.humanrightscity.com, which includes resources on local implementation efforts in the United States and in the City of
Eugene. The Project has facilitated informal presentations
to small groups of city employees and managers from various city departments and inter-departmental committees to
acquaint them with international human rights principles
and the Human Rights City concept and to convey the mes-

Human Rights and its Children and Family Justice Center,
Chicago’s Mayor introduced the resolution into the City
Council with the support of the Commissioner of the Department of Family and Support Services.
	 Although the city’s Human Rights Commission was not
involved in passing the resolution, it, or a separately created ad
hoc commission, could play a critical role in its implementation. For example, now that the resolution requires the city to
promote the well-being of children through its policies and
practices, a commission could monitor city agencies’ compliance, and potentially accept and investigate complaints
of non-compliance. A critical next step in implementing the
resolution is raising public awareness of its existence and mandate so that individuals can secure the rights that it promotes.
A commission could engage in this public education work,
giving the resolution teeth.55

sage that, in many instances, city staff are already engaged in
human rights work.
	 The Project has also engaged in a series of symposiums
and summits to educate the community and local officials
about international human rights principles. For example, in
2008, the Human Rights City Subcommittee of the Human
Rights Commission provided training to commission members and volunteers focusing on international human rights
standards and principles.57 The Human Rights Commission
also co-sponsored and supported a celebration of the 60th
anniversary of the UDHR. In conjunction with the celebration, community groups joined to create a Community
Coalition for Advancement of Human Rights and highlighted ways in which their work addressed human rights.
The event included an address by a Human Rights Commissioner and an official city proclamation by the mayor,
expressing Eugene’s commitment to international human
rights and local implementation.58
	 A critical next step in this effort is building support for a
City Council resolution committing the city’s government
to progressive implementation of the principles contained
in the UDHR, embracing the full range of civil, political,
economic, social and cultural rights. Once such a resolution
is passed by the Council, the Human Rights Commission
can play an important role in advising and assisting the City
Manager and city staff on how to implement the resolution
in ways that are sensitive to the city’s most important human
rights needs and issues.59

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

10 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

Los Angeles, California
The Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, one
of the nation’s oldest and largest human relations agencies,
serves one of the largest and most diverse populations in the
country and has a significant history of employing an international human rights framework.
	 The Commission has long engaged in documenting and
reporting human rights violations. Since 1980, the Commission has compiled, analyzed and produced an annual report
of hate crime data in LA County based on data provided by
law enforcement agencies, school districts, universities and
community organizations.60 The Commission distributes the
annual report to policy-makers, law enforcement agencies,
educators and community groups throughout LA County
and across the nation in an effort to raise awareness about
the types, severity, location and content of hate crimes in LA
County, and to improve efforts to prevent, detect, report,
investigate and prosecute hate crimes. The Commission also
uses information from the report to sponsor a number of
ongoing programs related to combating hate crime. In 2002
and 2003, the Commission contributed to a report by Human
Rights Watch on racial discrimination, providing its data on
hate crimes targeting Muslims and individuals from the Middle East living in LA County.61
	 The Commission has also engaged in promoting human
rights at the international level. In 2001, the Commission
partnered with the U.S. State Department and local United
Nations support groups to hold the only preparatory conference in the United States for the United Nations World Conference on Racism, Xenophobia and Other Forms of Intolerance (WCAR), which took place in South Africa in 2001.

The executive director of the Commission was invited to be
part of the official U.S. Delegation to the Conference, prior to
the U.S. Government canceling its involvement in the conference. Despite the U.S. cancellation, the Commission sent staff
and commissioners to the conference to share information on
the Commission’s work against racism, xenophobia and other
forms of discrimination, and to bring ideas and inspiration
back to the community.62
	 The Human Relations Commission also draws upon international human rights standards in its advocacy efforts. For
example, the Commission cited human rights standards in
its efforts to encourage the County Board of Supervisors to
support a moratorium on the death penalty in California. The
Commission has also recommended that the County Board
of Supervisors support a federal bill to establish a commission to investigate and establish the facts on Latin Americans
of Japanese descent interned by the U.S. Government during
World War II. The Commission cited international human
rights standards that were violated by policies allowing Japanese Americans to be detained and imprisoned without justification, uprooted and deported (regardless of citizenship
status), and used for prisoner exchange.63
	 Additionally, the Commission is embarking on a campaign
to address rising violence against people who are homeless.
Drawing on international human rights standards regarding
shelter and housing, the campaign aims to raise awareness of
mounting violence by encouraging law enforcement agencies to collect relevant data and engaging in public education
through youth initiatives, informational materials, websites
and curricula highlighting the fundamental human rights of
the homeless that require attention and protection, such as
the right to housing.64

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

The Role of State and Local Agencies 11

Best Practices and
Recommended Actions

As described above, state and local institutions, including
human rights and human relations commissions, already
engage international human rights standards and strategies
to promote equality, dignity and fairness close to home.
Drawing on these and other examples, a number of best practices and recommendations for incorporating a human rights
framework emerge. This section serves to distill these best
practices, but it is by no means an exhaustive list. Rather, it
is a starting point, highlighting some of the dynamic means
that state and local agencies and commissions can use to
advance their work.

Best practices and recommended actions include:
•	 Monitoring and documenting human
rights issues;
•	 Assessing local policy and practice in light of international standards;
•	 Engaging in human rights education;
•	 Incorporating human rights principles into
advocacy efforts;
•	 Investigating human rights complaints; and
•	 Coordinating and implementing local policy to
integrate human rights principles.

Monitoring and Documenting
Human Rights Issues
State and local human rights agencies can engage in international human rights compliance through the human rights
treaty reporting process and other documentation efforts.
	 Monitoring and documenting human rights compliance is
an effective and important means of ensuring the protection
of human rights. For example, in the international system, the
United States is obligated to report every few years on how it
is fulfilling its obligations under the human rights treaties it
has ratified. The UN committees that oversee the treaties then
hold hearings based on the federal government’s report and
issue what are called Concluding Observations, highlighting
areas of concern and providing recommendations for the government to improve treaty implementation.65

	 State and local human rights and human relations commissions can play a critical role in this reporting process, ensuring
that the federal government’s reports accurately reflect what is
happening at the state and local level—at home, where respect
for human rights begins. Commissions can help inform and
shape the federal report, highlighting the successes in their
communities and the areas where they are working to improve
equality and fairness.
	 For example, in February 2008, the UN CERD Committee reviewed U.S. compliance with the Race Convention
(ICERD). While the U.S.’s official report was largely developed inside the State Department without much input from
communities or state and local agencies, the Pennsylvania
Human Rights Commission became involved in the reporting
process. In conjunction with the CERD review, the Pennsylvania Commission provided information to the UN CERD
Committee. Specifically, the Commission provided disaggregated data on cases involving race, color and national origin in
employment, housing accommodation and education.66
	 The City of Berkeley has engaged in similar reporting and
is poised to commit itself to do so in the future. In 2007, the
city sent a report to the UN CERD Committee providing
“general information about the land and people, political and
legal structure, and status of civil and human rights in the City
of Berkeley, California.”67 The City Council is currently considering a proposal from the Berkeley Peace & Justice Commission (the city’s functional equivalent of a human rights or
human relations commission) that would require the city to
provide local statistical reports and information on local ordinances related to implementation of the three major human
rights treaties ratified by the U.S to the county, state, and federal governments, and to the UN treaty bodies.68 The reports
would correspond with the U.S. government’s periodic treaty
reporting obligations.69
	 In addition to documenting and contributing information
directly, state and local human rights and human relations
agencies can help to facilitate visits of international human
rights experts and officials. In recent years, UN officials such
as the Special Rapporteur on Racism have come to visit the
U.S. with the goal of observing the state of, in this case, racial
relations in the United States, and to facilitate dialogues
within communities about race and human rights. State and
local human rights and human relations agencies can use such
opportunities to engage their own communities in conversa-

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

12 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

tions on these issues, and also ensure that the UN experts and
officials accurately report on the status of human rights in
their communities.
Assessing Local Policy and Practice in Light of
International Standards
Once an international treaty monitoring body or committee
issues Concluding Observations on U.S. compliance with its
obligations under a human rights treaty it has ratified, state
and local agencies can hold hearings on the resulting observations and recommendations to assess state and local policy
and practice in light of international human rights standards.
State and local human rights and human relations commissions can then issue their own recommendations for legislation or administrative action at the state and local level, based
on their assessment.
	 For example, in the Concluding Observations it issued
this spring, the UN CERD Committee expressed concern
with continuing racial segregation in the United States.70
The Committee urged the government to develop public
housing outside of segregated areas, to eliminate obstacles to
affordable housing and to effectively implement legislation
adopted at the state and federal level to combat discrimination in housing.71 State and local human rights agencies can
use this opportunity to hold hearings and have conversations
about state and local policies around affordable housing and
lending, and to promote policies to affirmatively address the
disparate racial impact of specific policies and practices at
the local level.
Engaging in Human Rights Education
State and local human rights and human relations commissions can work with local citizen’s groups to engage in education and outreach around the standards set forth in the
various international human rights treaties, both those that
the U.S. government has ratified and others that are ratified
by other countries and serve as a source of international standards regarding many types of rights.
	 For example, in 2007, the Human Rights City Project of
the Eugene Human Rights Commission organized a symposium on “Bringing Human Rights Home: Implementing
International Human Rights in the United States” at the
University of Oregon Law Center, followed by a community workshop focusing on local implementation of human
rights standards in Eugene.72 The Project is currently plan-

ning a human rights summit, which would provide a forum
for city staff and members of the appropriate city commissions to explore the applicability of a human rights framework to their work, and an opportunity for members of the
community to learn about and exchange ideas on how to
link local human rights challenges to international human
rights treaties.73
	 The Anchorage Equal Rights Commission in Alaska
also engages in public education around human rights
standards. On December 10, 2008, the 60th anniversary
of the UDHR, the Commission sent an email to municipal employees and others announcing that the day marked
International Human Rights Day and highlighting the basic
principles contained in the UDHR, including the inherent
dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all people. The
email urged recipients to re-dedicate themselves to achieving
equality and fairness for all.74
	 In addition to educating the public and state and local officials about relevant human rights standards, state and local
human rights and human relations agencies can provide an
accessible clearinghouse of information for individuals who
believe that their human rights have been violated. They can
provide information on complaint mechanisms and local,
national and international avenues for redress, including
information on the international human rights system. For
example, the recently re-established Milwaukee Equal Rights
Commission is charged with providing a clearinghouse of
information and publications related to human rights.75 And
the website of the Portland Office of Human Relations links
to the website of the UN Office of the High Commissioner
for Human Rights, which contains extensive information on
human rights protection and promotion.76
Incorporating Human Rights Principles Into
Advocacy Efforts
State and local human rights and human relations commissions can incorporate human rights standards to frame their
missions and orient their advocacy initiatives. Through the
framework of human rights, state and local agencies can better understand and articulate the interrelated nature of rights.
For example, agencies can address issues of economic and
social rights through the lens of discrimination. The recently
enacted ordinance re-establishing Milwaukee’s Equal Rights
Commission does this by charging the Commission with
promoting social and economic equity for all city residents as

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

The Role of State and Local Agencies 13

part of its objective of promoting equal rights, diversity and
non-discrimination.77
	 An international human rights framework also enables
commissions to identify and articulate issues in accordance
with internationally recognized standards. For example, the
Washington State Human Rights Commission is able to
articulate the human rights dimensions of the lack of housing for farm workers in the state. The Los Angeles County
Human Relations Commission can place the issue of hate
crimes into a human rights context, highlighting the international standards that prohibit such crimes. And the City
of San Francisco is able to address ways in which certain
employment policies and practices have a disparate, unintentionally adverse effect on women.
Investigating Human Rights Complaints
For state and local human rights and human relations commissions with authority to investigate individual complaints,
a human rights framework can provide a set of standards
for assessing whether a violation has occurred. For example,
guided by the principles contained in the UDHR, the Portland, Oregon Human Rights Commission has designed its
complaint form to address a broad range of potential rights
violations that it might not otherwise consider. Even if an
agency is not authorized to enforce prohibitions on human
rights violations, using a human rights framework as a basis of
a complaint system would enable state and local human rights
and human relations commissions to engage in broader documenting and reporting efforts and raise awareness of human
rights concerns within the community.

Coordinating and Implementing Local Policy to
Integrate Human Rights Principles
By raising awareness, building public support and providing
other expertise and resources, state and local human rights
and human relations agencies can encourage and assist other
government agencies to incorporate human rights principles
and standards into local law. San Francisco’s CEDAW Ordinance, the Chicago resolution encouraging incorporation of
the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
and efforts to incorporate human rights principles into local
law currently underway in Seattle and New York City are all
examples of this work.
	 The Seattle Human Rights Commission is currently working with elected officials to develop and promote a proposed
ordinance whereby the city would adopt provisions and standards of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CEDAW,
and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights.78
	 In New York City, the proposed New York City Human
Rights in Government Operations Audit Law (Human Rights
GOAL) seeks to integrate human rights principles of dignity
and equality (based on CERD and CEDAW) into local policy and practice by requiring that the city train its personnel in
human rights; undertake a human rights analysis of the operations of each city department, program and entity; and create
action plans for how the city will integrate human rights principles. The bill would create a taskforce comprised of community and government representatives to oversee its implementation and would create avenues for meaningful community
participation in the development of the human rights analysis
and action plan.79

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14 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

Federal Reforms to Provide Enhanced Support for State and
Local Human Rights Implementation
While states and localities can be effective sites for human
rights incorporation, the federal government must maintain
a critical role in coordinating and supporting their efforts to
advance and implement human rights norms.
	 The federal government already plays an important role
in facilitating and supporting state and local human rights
and human relations commissions in their efforts to enforce
and monitor compliance with federal anti-discrimination
laws. Through its Fair Housing Initiatives Program, the
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
provides grants to state commissions to conduct fair housing education and outreach. The Equal Employment and
Opportunities Commission (EEOC) contracts with state
and local commissions to enforce federal anti-discrimination
in employment laws at the local level. In these and other
ways, the federal government should coordinate and support
states and municipalities in their efforts to implement human
rights treaty obligations, as well.

Two Key Reforms: Interagency Working
Group on Human Rights and U.S. Civil
and Human Rights Commission

Recent calls for a revived Interagency Working Group on
Human Rights and a transformed and strengthened U.S. Civil
and Human Rights Commission would go a long way towards
ensuring that human rights are built into the baseline of government, and that the U.S. takes a coordinated and effective
approach to human rights compliance.80 These two mechanisms would support a coordinated approach in which the
federal government works closely with states and localities,
including through the work of their human rights and human
relations commissions.
	 First, an Interagency Working Group on Human Rights
would serve as a focal point within the federal government
to ensure coordination among all of the federal agencies and
departments around human rights issues. In 1998, former
President Clinton created the Interagency Working Group
on the Implementation of Human Rights Treaties to under-

take a range of functions to oversee domestic implementation of the various UN treaties ratified by the United States.81
The Interagency Working Group was essentially dismantled
during the Bush administration.82 A revived Working Group
could improve on the Clinton-era version by including more
relevant agencies and departments, and expanding its mandate to require, inter alia, that it coordinate with state and
local governments.83
	 Second, reforming the current U.S. Civil Rights Commission by restructuring it and transforming it into a U.S. Civil
and Human Rights Commission, would establish an independent and non-partisan entity that would include as part
of its mandate an examination of the United States’ compliance with international treaties and other international
human rights obligations. National human rights commissions around the world monitor and promote governments’
compliance with human rights obligations by: conducting
research; drafting reports, opinions and recommendations;
issuing proposals to harmonize legislation and policies with
human rights obligations; engaging in human rights education work; contributing human rights reports to international
and regional treaty bodies; and receiving complaints on possible human rights violations. While the complaint function
may not necessarily be tied into a judicial process, it may
uncover issues that deserve attention and study, and lead to
recommendations for critically needed changes in the relevant
laws, policies and practices.
	 Similarly, a U.S. Commission on Civil and Human Rights
would improve on the current U.S. Civil Rights Commission
by expanding its mandate to examine U.S. compliance with
international treaties, in addition to its current mandate to
examine compliance with legal obligations that affect civil
rights. A reformed and strengthened U.S. Civil and Human
Rights Commission would be empowered to: issue reports
and recommendations to the executive branch and Congress;
contribute to the reports the United States submits to international bodies; develop programs for teaching and training on
human rights issues; and conduct investigations and hearings
into human rights complaints.84

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Federal Reforms 15

Strategies for Successful Engagement
of State and Local Human Rights and
Human Relations Commissions

These structures—a reconstituted Interagency Working
Group on Human Rights and a transformed U.S. Civil and
Human Rights Commission—can provide critical support for
human rights compliance at the state and local level. Indeed,
to be effective, they must work in close coordination with, and
indeed support the work of, state and local efforts to ensure
broad civil and human rights compliance, through dedicated
staff, education and training, and funding.
Dedicated Staff
First, federal implementing and monitoring bodies should
have staff dedicated to liaising and coordinating with states
and municipalities, specifically through their human rights
and human relations commissions and other relevant state and
local officials. For example, the U.S. Civil and Human Rights
Commission should have dedicated staff charged with:85
•	 receiving reports, suggestions and recommendations
from state and local human rights and human
relations commissions, and other relevant state
and local officials, on matters falling within
the jurisdiction of the U.S. Commission;
•	 soliciting input from and consulting with state and
local human rights and human relations commissions
and other relevant state and local agencies on reports
to international and regional human rights bodies;
•	 initiating and forwarding advice and recommendations
to state and local commissions and other relevant state
and local officials on matters that the Commission has
studied or on observations or reports received from
international and regional human rights bodies;
•	 assisting the state and local commissions and other
relevant state and local officials in their own efforts to:
–– collect information and report on human rights
compliance at the state and local level, and
analyze data to determine where compliance is
strong, and where it needs improvement;
–– organize and hold hearings on issues of state
and local concern, including state and local
policy in light of the Commission’s own findings
and/or Concluding Observations issued by
international and regional human rights bodies;

–– engage in educational efforts with the public and
with state and local agencies to raise awareness
of international human rights standards;
–– identify best practices in other jurisdictions for
human rights compliance and implementation;
–– assist in drafting and/or supporting recommendations
and guidance encouraging, permitting or requiring
governmental agencies to take international
human rights standards into account in
creating new policies and legislation; and
–– convene and work with key partners (police,
schools, local NGOs and community members)
to implement, via training, education and other
means, the institutional changes recommended by
the U.S. Commission or international bodies.
Education and Training
Through the Interagency Working Group on Human Rights
and a U.S. Commission on Civil and Human Rights, the federal
government should also mandate and offer guidance on training regarding civil and human rights, including governments’
obligations under civil rights statutes, human rights treaties ratified by the United States and relevant international, regional
and national human rights mechanisms. Specifically, these
institutions should provide training and guidance for key staff
of state and local human rights commissions and other relevant
agencies to help develop an understanding of the obligations
that state and municipal governments are expected to undertake, to assist with data collection and analysis, and to facilitate
dialogue with international and regional human rights bodies.86
	 The U.S. Commission should facilitate ongoing transmittal of relevant policy changes to these agencies, including any
changes in human rights obligations, any relevant decisions
by monitoring bodies, the results of treaty review processes
and changes in domestic legislation. Because most of the local
agencies that would be best positioned to implement these
changes in law, policy and practice are not under ongoing federal supervision, the Commission would play an important
role in engaging those at the local level to effectuate needed
changes. The U.S. Commission should also engage in ongoing
discussions of the implications of these evolving norms in the
work of local officials.
	 A U.S. Commission on Civil and Human Rights could also
take a lead role, in conjunction with relevant federal agencies,

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

16 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

in working with state and local commissions and other state
and local officials to help U.S. delegations prepare for international human rights conferences and disseminate the declarations or plans of action to the appropriate government bodies.
	 Likewise, the Commission could play a role in working
with state and local commissions to prepare for official mission site visits from international and regional human rights
experts. When UN officials such as the Special Rapporteur
on Racism have come to visit the United States, state and local
human rights commissions have had a very limited awareness
of their visits and how they could be used to help engage
communities on critical issues, missing important opportunities to advance human rights at home. The Commission
should conduct education with the local commissions and
other relevant agencies of state and local government before
such visits and help them take full advantage of international
experts’ presence while they are in the United States. This
will enable state and local human rights and human relations
commissions to share their expertise about local challenges
and initiatives, thereby amplifying and deepening knowledge
that international experts and officials gain about best practices, and perhaps inspiring solutions elsewhere in the United
States or around the world.
Funding
The federal government should also provide financial support
for state and local governments to engage in civil and human
rights implementation and compliance. Specifically, a U.S.
Commission on Civil and Human Rights could be authorized and funded to distribute and oversee a federal grants
program supporting state and local agencies and community
based non-governmental agencies in their efforts to undertake

civil and human rights education, monitoring, reporting and
enforcement efforts.
	 There are several models for such a grants program. The
federal EEOC already contracts with state and local human
rights and human relations commissions (Fair Employment
Practice Agencies) to enforce federal anti-discrimination
laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,
the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.87 This enables state
and local agencies to manage federal claims of discrimination
through work sharing agreements with the federal government. A U.S. Commission on Civil and Human Rights could
enter into similar contracts with state and local human rights
and human relations commissions to engage in periodic monitoring, reporting and data analysis under the human rights
treaties ratified by the United States.
	 Similarly, the Department of Housing and Urban Development Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) provides
grants to state and local human rights commissions to conduct fair housing education and outreach.88 A U.S. Commission on Civil and Human Rights could issue similar grants
to state and local agencies to develop and engage in general
human rights education and training for the public, as well
as education of state and local officials. Such education and
training would include information on relevant civil and
international human rights standards, and international,
regional and national human rights mechanisms that are set
up to monitor and enforce human rights. Training would also
focus on assisting staff within state and local commissions
with collecting and analyzing data and reporting on how well
their jurisdictions are complying with civil rights laws and
human rights treaties.

The United States was founded on the idea that all people are endowed with inalienable rights, and that principle has
allowed us to work to perfect our union at home while standing as a beacon of hope to the world. Today, that principle
is embodied in agreements Americans helped forge—the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Conventions, and treaties against torture and genocide—and it unites us with people from every country and culture.
	 When the United States stands up for human rights, by example at home and by effort abroad, we align ourselves
with men and women around the world who struggle for the right to speak their minds, to choose their leaders, and to
be treated with dignity and respect. We also strengthen our security and well being, because the abuse of human rights
can feed many of the global dangers that we confront—from armed conflict and humanitarian crises, to corruption and
the spread of ideologies that promote hatred and violence.
—Statement of then President-elect Barack Obama on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2008.

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

Conclusion 17

	 Another potential model is the Safe Schools/Healthy
Students Initiative Grants, a collaboration of the U.S.
Departments of Education, Health and Human Services,
and Justice.89 The program is a discretionary grant program
providing students, schools and communities with federal
funding to implement comprehensive and integrated programs focusing on promoting healthy childhood development and preventing violence and alcohol and other drug
use. The program, which requires coordination with community based organizations, promotes collaborative initiatives by encouraging key local educational agencies, local law
enforcement agencies, public mental health authorities and
juvenile justice agencies to apply jointly for federal funding
to support a variety of activities and services. A U.S. Commission on Civil and Human Rights could similarly invite
state and local human rights and human relations commissions and other state and local agencies to partner with community organizations and other members of civil society to
create more integrated approaches to civil and human rights
education and compliance.
	 An additional model, developed by Harvard Kennedy
School’s Christopher Stone, in conjunction with the Harvard Executive Sessions on Human Rights Commissions and
Criminal Justice, would provide federal support to promote
and strengthen human rights by developing relationships of
mutual trust and respect between local residents and local
police.90 The proposal calls for establishing a new Office of
Human Rights and Law Enforcement Partnerships within the
U.S. Department of Justice. The Office would be tasked with
providing funding to encourage and develop partnerships
between local human rights commissions and law enforcement agencies, providing technical assistance and training,
and developing national conferences and research on human
rights partnerships.

Conclusion
International human rights standards and strategies provide
powerful tools for affirming and promoting the dignity and
equality of all people and ensuring that everyone is able to fulfill his or her basic needs, as well as realize his or her full potential. These internationally recognized norms are central to the
mission of state and local human rights and human relations
agencies as they work to ensure opportunity and equality for
everyone in their communities. Thus, with the necessary support, state and local agencies can play an instrumental role in
ensuring that the human rights ideals that the United States
was founded upon are reflected and realized at every level of
government and accessible for all individuals.

These are just a few ways that the federal government can
and should support the efforts and utilize the resources, relationships and expertise of state and local human rights and
human relations commissions and other relevant state and
local agencies as they seek to ensure broad civil and human
rights compliance.

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

18 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

Endnotes
1	 Eleanor Roosevelt, Remarks to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (Mar. 27, 1958).
2	 F or a detailed account and analysis of the history of human rights in the United States, see volumes one and two of Bringing Human Rights Home
(Cynthia Soohoo, Catherine Albisa & Martha Davis eds., 2007).
3	 The Opportunity Agenda, “Human Rights in the U.S.: Opinion Research with Advocates, Journalists, and the General Public” 3 (2007), available at
http://www.opportunityagenda.org/files/field_file/Human%20Rights%20Report%20-%202007%20public%20opinion.pdf.
4	 Id. at 3-4.
5	 See generally Tara J. Melish, “From Paradox to Subsidiarity: The United States and Human Rights Treaty Bodies,” 34 Yale J. Int’l L. 389 (2009).
6	 S ee Martha F. Davis, “Upstairs, Downstairs: Subnational Incorporation of International Human Rights Law at the End of an Era,” 77 Fordham L. Rev.
411, 436 (2008); Catherine Powell, “Dialogic Federalism: Constitutional Possibilities for Incorporation of Human Rights Law in the United States,”
150 U. Pa. L. Rev. 245, 249 (2001); Judith Resnik, “Law’s Migration: American Exceptionalism & Federalism’s Multiple Ports of Entry,” 115 Yale L.J.
1564, 1581 (2006); Cynthia Soohoo & Suzanne Stolz, “Bringing Human Rights Change Home,” 77 Fordham L. Rev. 459, 475 (2008).
7	 U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2.
8	 S ee Medellin v. Texas, 128 S. Ct. 1346 (2008). In Medellin, the U.S. Supreme Court held that judgments by the International Court of Justice (ICJ)
are not directly enforceable in United States courts and that the President cannot direct states to comply with a United States treaty obligation
under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by enforcing a decision of the ICJ. The Court noted, however, that “[w]e do not suggest that
treaties can never afford binding domestic effect to international tribunal judgments—only that [these particular instruments] do not do so.” Id.
at 1364-65. The full impact of the decision, and its applicability to other human rights treaty obligations, will be determined as it is interpreted by
future courts. For an exploration of possible interpretations of the decision, see “Agora: Medellin,” 102 Am. J. Int’l L. 529 (2008).
9	 U
 nder the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, a state that has signed a treaty has an obligation “to refrain from acts which would defeat the
object and purpose of [the] treaty,” unless and until that state has expressed its intention not to become a party. Vienna Convention on the Law
of Treaties art. 18, Jan. 27, 1980, 1155 U.N.T.S. 331. While the United States is not a party to the Vienna Convention, the U.S. recognizes that many
of the Convention’s provisions have become customary international law.
10	 T
 he U.S. won a seat on the Human Rights Council in 2009. Seventeen other countries were also elected or re-elected in 2009 to three-year terms
on the 47-seat council.
11	 More information is available at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.
12	 For more information on the Inter-American Commission, visit http://www.cidh.org.
13	 U
 niversal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. Res. 217A, at 71, U.N. GAOR, 3d Sess., 1st plen. mtg., UN Doc. A/810 (Dec. 10, 1948), available at
http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/.
14	 I nternational Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, 993 U.N.T.S. 3, available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/
law/cescr.htm.
15	 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171, available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm.
16	 I nternational Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Dec. 21, 1965, 660 U.N.T.S. 195, available at http://www2.ohchr.
org/english/law/cerd.htm.
17	 C
 onvention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, Dec. 18, 1979, 1249 U.N.T.S. 13, available at http://www2.ohchr.org/
english/law/cedaw.htm.
18	 Ratification information available at http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-8&chapter=4&lang=en.
19	 C
 onvention on the Rights of the Child, Nov. 20, 1989, 1577 U.N.T.S. 3, available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/crc.htm. The U.S. has ratified
the CRC’s optional protocols on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
20	 Aside from the United States, St. Lucia and Somalia are the only other two countries that have not ratified the CRC. Ratification information
available at http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11&chapter=4&lang=en.
21	 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Dec. 13, 2006, 46 I.L.M. 333, available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/disabilities-convention.htm.
22	 C
 onvention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Dec. 10, 1984, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85, available at http://
www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cat.htm. The U.S. has not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which establishes a system of regular
visits to places of detention carried out by independent national and international bodies.
23	 Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 (TVPA), 28 U.S.C. § 1350 (2000).

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

Endnotes 19

24	 I nternational Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, Dec. 20, 2006, U.N. Doc. A/RES/61/177, available at
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/disappearance-convention.htm.
25	 I nternational Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, Dec. 18, 1990, 2220 U.N.T.S. 93,
available at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cmw.htm.
26	 Charter of the Organization of American States, Apr. 30, 1948, 2 U.S.T. 2394, 119 U.N.T.S. 3, available at http://www.oas.org/juridico/English/charter.html.
27	 American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, O.A.S. Res. XXX, OEA/ser.L./V./II.23, doc. 21 rev. 6 (May 2, 1948), available at http://www.
cidh.org/basicos/english/Basic2.American%20Declaration.htm.
28	 S ee Advisory Opinion on the Juridical Condition and Rights of Undocumented Migrants, 2003 Inter-Am. Ct. H.R. (ser. A) No. 18/03 (Sept. 17,
2003), available at http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/iachr/series_A.html.
29	 A
 merican Convention on Human Rights, Nov. 22, 1969, O.A.S.T.S. No. 36, 1144 U.N.T.S. 123, available at http://www.oas.org/juridico/English/
treaties/b-32.html.
30	 K
 enneth L. Saunders & Hyo Eun (April) Bang, “A Historical Perspective on U.S. Human Rights Commissions,” Executive Session Papers: Human
Rights Commissions and Criminal Justice (Marea L. Beeman ed., 2007), available at http://www.hrccj.org/pdfs/history_of_hrc.pdf. Because the
figure includes Canadian agencies, the number of U.S. Commissions was also based on IAOHRA’s lists.
31	 See International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies Home Page, http://www.iaohra.org/.
32	 See National Association of Human Rights Workers Home Page, http://www.nahrw.org/.
33	 See California Association of Human Relations Organizations Home Page, http://www.cahro.org/.
34	 1 38 Cong. Rec. 8071 (1992) (recognizing that state and local governments shall implement obligations under the ICCPR); 140 Cong. Rec. 14326
(1994) (same understanding regarding ICERD); 136 Cong. Rec. S17486 (daily ed. Oct. 27, 1990) (same understanding for CAT).
35	 I n recognition of the role that state and local human rights and human relations commissions can play in implementing international human rights
norms, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government recently convened an Executive Session on Human Rights Commissions and Criminal
Justice. Between 2006 and 2008, the Executive Session brought leaders of human rights and community relations commissions together with
select police chiefs and human rights and civil rights experts to explore ways in which state and local human rights commissions can redress
human rights violations that exist in the criminal justice system. The group specifically addressed issues of police misconduct, hate or bias crimes,
recruitment diversity within law enforcement agencies and selective enforcement of immigration laws. For more information about the Executive
Session and its recommendations and outcomes, see http://www.hrccj.org/about_project.html.
36	 P
 ortland, Ore., Ordinance No. 181670 (City Council, Mar. 11, 2008), available at http://www.portlandonline.com/humanrelations/index.
cfm?c=50680&a=227365.
37	 C
 ity of Portland, Oregon, Human Rights Commission, Bylaws (Jan. 7, 2009), available at http://www.portlandonline.com/humanrelations/index.
cfm?c=49504.
38	 The Complaint form is available at http://www.portlandonline.com/humanrelations/index.cfm?c=50684.
39	 Though it does not have enforcement powers, the Commission is empowered to engage in education, research, advocacy and intervention through
negotiation, mediation and facilitation.
40	 Telephone Interview by Joie Chowdhury with María Lisa Johnson, Director of the Office of Human Relations, Portland, Oregon (Feb. 20, 2009).
41	 City of Portland, Oregon, Office of Human Relations, Resources, http://www.portlandonline.com/humanrelations/index.cfm?c=50684.
42	 C
 ity of Portland, Oregon, Human Rights Commission, Meeting Notes (May 6, 2009), available at http://www.portlandonline.com/humanrelations/
index.cfm?c=49502&a=249872.
43	 Telephone Interview by Sam Yospe with Marc Brenman, Former Executive Director, Washington State Human Rights Commission (Apr. 19, 2009).
44	 W
 ashington State Human Rights Commission, “Farm Worker Housing and the Washington Law Against Discrimination” (2007), available at
http://content.knowledgeplex.org/kp2/cache/documents/17830/1783061.pdf.
45	 F or more information on the advocacy work leading up to the passage of the San Francisco resolution, see WILD for Human Rights, “Making Rights
Real: A Workbook for Local Implementation” (2006), available at http://www.wildforhumanrights.org/documents/resources/making_rights_real.pdf.
46	 The full text of San Francisco’s ordinance is provided in Appendix D-3.
47	 Telephone Interview by Erin Smith with Ann Lehman, Senior CEDAW Policy Analyst, San Francisco Department on the Status of Women (July 7, 2009);
Telephone Interview by Erin Smith with Anu Menon, CEDAW Policy Analyst, San Francisco Department on the Status of Women (June 29, 2009).
48	 Id.
49	 F or more analysis of the impact of the CEDAW ordinance, see WILD for Human Rights, “Respect, Protect, Fulfill: Raising the Bar on Women’s Rights
in San Francisco” (2008) [hereinafter WILD, Respect, Protect, Fulfill], available at http://www.wildforhumanrights.org/documents/resources/
respectprotect.pdf.

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

20 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

50	 Interview with Ann Lehman, supra note 47.
51	 Id.
52	 WILD, Respect, Protect, Fulfill, supra note 49, at 7.
53	 The full text of Chicago’s resolution is provided in Appendix D-1. Chicago adopted the resolution on February 11, 2009. In doing so, Chicago joined
ten other cities and five states that have passed resolutions in support of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Cities include: Austin, TX;
Cambridge, MA; Cleveland, OH; Detroit, MI; Grand Rapids, MI; Kansas City, MO; Minneapolis, MN; New York, NY; San Diego, CA and Savannah,
GA. State governments include: Hawaii (2007), Rhode Island (2002), Vermont (1997), South Carolina (1992) and New York (1989). Email
from Sandra Babcock, Clinical Director, Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern Law, to Erin Smith, Intern, Columbia Law School
Human Rights Institute (July 21, 2009); Email from Jonathan Todres, Associate Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law, to
Erin Smith, Intern, Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute (July 28, 2009). Eighteen states, nineteen counties and forty-seven cities have
likewise passed resolutions in support of CEDAW, the Women’s Convention. A full list of states, cities and counties is provided in Appendix C.
Philadelphia’s resolution in support of CEDAW is provided in Appendix D-2. Three cities—San Francisco, Berkeley and Los Angeles—have passed
resolutions implementing the principles of CEDAW into local law.
54	 P
 ress Release, U.S. Human Rights Fund, “Chicago City Council Passed Resolution Supporting the Convention on the Rights for the Child” (Feb. 17,
2009), available at http://www.ushumanrightsfund.org/news/chicago-city-council-passed-resolution-supporting-.
55	 Telephone Interview by Joie Chowdhury with Sandra Babcock, Clinical Director, Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University
Law School (Feb. 2009).
56	 Telephone Interview by Joie Chowdhury with Ken Neubeck, Community Volunteer, Eugene Human Rights Commission (Feb. 23, 2009).
57	 Id.
58	 The City of Eugene’s proclamation is provided in Appendix B.
59	 Interview with Ken Neubeck, supra note 56.
60	 See Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, Hate Crime Reports, http://lahumanrelations.org/hatecrime/hatecrimereport.htm.
61	 Telephone Interview by Joie Chowdhury with Robin Toma, Executive Director, LA County Human Relations Commission (Apr. 13, 2009).
62	 Id.
63	 F or more information on the federal bill, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act (H.R.
42 and S. 69), see http://www.campaignforjusticejla.org/. A petition was filed on behalf of Japanese Latin American former internees with the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in June 2003, seeking remedies for the ongoing failure to provide redress for these war crimes and
crimes against humanity committed during World War II. A decision by the IACHR is pending. See Campaign for Justice, What We Do: Litigation,
http://www.campaignforjusticejla.org/whatwedo/litigation.html.
64	 I nterview with Robin Toma, supra note 61. Particularly applicable to the homeless is Article 25, paragraph 1 of the UDHR: “Everyone has the right
to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care
and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of
livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”
65	 F or more information on Concluding Observations, see Amnesty International, How to Follow Up to Treaty Body Recommendations, http://www.
amnesty.org/en/united-nations/treaty-bodies/role-of-civil-society/recommendations.
66	 Telephone Interview by Joie Chowdhury with Stephen Glassman, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (Feb. 25, 2009).
67	 Report Submitted by the City of Berkeley Under Article 9 of the Convention, to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (June 2007).
68	 Telephone Interview by Erin Smith with Ann Fagan Ginger, Executive Director, Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute (July 6, 2009); Telephone
Interview by Erin Smith with Diana Bohn, Member, Berkeley Peace & Justice Commission (July 21, 2009).
69	 Interview with Ann Fagan Ginger, supra note 68.
70	 U
 .N. CERD Committee, Concluding Observations: United States of America, ¶ 16, U.N. Doc. CERD/C/USA/CO/6 (May 8, 2008) [hereinafter U.N.
CERD Committee, Concluding Observations on the U.S.].
71	 Id.
72	 Interview with Ken Neubeck, supra note 56.
73	 Id.
74	 Telephone Interview by Sam Yospe with Barbara Jones, Director, Anchorage Equal Rights Commission (Apr. 6, 2009).
75	 Telephone Interview by Joie Chowdhury with Rose Daitsman and Diane Lindsley, Co-Coordinators of the Greater Milwaukee Human Rights
Coalition (Feb. 22, 2009).
76	 City of Portland, Oregon, Office of Human Relations, Resources, http://www.portlandonline.com/humanrelations/index.cfm?c=50684.

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

Endnotes 21

77	 M
 ilwaukee Wis., Code of Ordinances, Volume 1, § 109-21, available at http://cctv25.milwaukee.gov/code/volume1/ch109.pdf; Interview with Rose
Daitsman and Diane Lindsley, supra note 75.
78	 T
 elephone Interview by Joie Chowdhury with Roslyn Solomon, Commissioner, Seattle Human Rights Commission, and Julie Nelson, Director,
Seattle Office for Civil Rights (May 27, 2009).
79	 N
 ew York, N.Y., Int. 0731-2008 (City Council, introduced Mar. 12, 2008), available at http://webdocs.nyccouncil.info/textfiles/Int%200731-2008.
htm. The bill was introduced to the New York City Council in March 2008, and assigned to the Civil Rights Committee. It currently has 26
sponsors. Email from Ejim Dike, Director, Human Rights Project, Urban Justice Center, to Risa Kaufman, Executive Director, Human Rights Institute,
Columbia Law School (July 27, 2009).
80	 See Catherine Powell, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, “Human Rights at Home: A Domestic Policy Blueprint for the New
Administration” (2008) [hereinafter Blueprint], available at http://www.acslaw.org/files/C%20Powell%20Blueprint.pdf (recommending that the
new Administration “reconstitute and revitalize” the Interagency Working Group on Human Rights as a focal point for implementing human rights
domestically, as well as create a monitoring body in the form of a national human rights commission). See also Leadership Conference on Civil
Rights, “Restoring the Conscience of a Nation” (2009) [hereinafter LCCR Report], available at http://www.civilrights.org/publications/reports/
commission/lccref_commission_report_march2009.pdf (recommending changing the name and mandate of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to
the U.S. Civil and Human Rights Commission).
81	 E
 xec. Order No. 13,107, §1, 63 Fed. Reg. 68,991 (1998). Among its functions, the Working Group was charged with (1) coordinating the preparation
of treaty compliance reports to international organizations, including the UN and the OAS, and the responses to contentious complaints that were
lodged with these bodies; (2) overseeing a review of all proposed legislation to ensure conformity with international human rights obligations;
(3) ensuring annual review of the reservations, understandings and declarations the U.S. attached to human rights treaties; and (4) considering
complaints and allegations of inconsistency with or breach of international human rights obligations. Id. at §4(c). In addition, the group had a public
education function: it was responsible for ensuring public outreach and education on human rights provisions in both treaty and domestic law. Id.
82	 I n 2001, President George W. Bush superseded the Working Group with a National Security Presidential Directive establishing a Policy Coordination
Committee (PCC) on Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations, directed by the Assistant to the President for National Security
Affairs. The Directive transferred the duties of the Interagency Working Group to that Committee. National Security Presidential Directive 1,
Organization of the National Security Council System (Feb. 13, 2001). National Security Presidential Directive 1, Organization of the National
Security Council System (Feb. 13, 2001), available at http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/nspd/nspd-1.htm. This Committee by all accounts was never
fully operationalized.
83	 S ee Blueprint, supra note 80, at Appendix B. Other proposed improvements include additional functions such as overseeing follow-up with treaty
bodies once they have conducted a review of U.S. compliance; creating an open and transparent process for treaty reporting; coordinating human
rights impact statements on pending legislation, regulations and budgets; coordinating with civil society, through non-governmental organizations;
and including customary international law within the scope of its mandate. Id. at 16-18.
84	 Id. at 5. See also LCCR Report, supra note 80 (setting forth recommendations for a reformed Commission).
85	 The U.S. Civil Rights Commission currently operates State Advisory Committees in each state and six regional coordinating offices. Regardless
of whether this structure is maintained, a reformed U.S. Commission on Civil and Human Rights should have Commission staff dedicated to the
functions outlined herein.
86	 See, e.g., U.N. CERD Committee, Concluding Observations on the U.S., supra note 70, at ¶ 36 (“The Committee recommends that the State party
organize public awareness and education programmes on the Convention and its provisions, and step up its efforts to make government officials,
the judiciary, federal and state law enforcement officials, teachers, social workers and the public in general aware about the responsibilities of the
State party under the Convention, as well as the mechanisms and procedures provided for by the Convention in the field of racial discrimination
and intolerance.”).
87	 S ee 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-8(b) (giving the EEOC authority to cooperate with local human rights commissions, including the ability to “engage in
and contribute to the cost of research and other projects of mutual interest undertaken by such agencies, and utilize the services of such agencies
and their employees, and, notwithstanding any other provision of law, pay by advance or reimbursement such agencies and their employees for
services rendered to assist the Commission”).
88	 H
 ousing and Community Development Act of 1987, 42 U.S.C. § 3616, Pub. L. No. 100-242, amended by Housing and Community Development
Act of 1992, Pub. L. No. 102-550, 106 Stat. 3672.
89	 Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, Pub. L. No. 89-10, 79 Stat. 27 (codified as amended at 20 U.S.C § 7131).
90	 E
 mail from Marea Beeman, Senior Research Associate, Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management, Harvard Kennedy School, to Risa
Kaufman, Executive Director, Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School (Mar. 31, 2009).

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

22 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

Appendix A: Resources and Contact Information
Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School
Risa Kaufman, Executive Director
435 West 116th Street, Box G-4
New York, NY 10027
Phone: 212-854-0706
Fax: 212-854-3554
risa.kaufman@law.columbia.edu
www.law.columbia.edu/center_program/human_rights

National Economic and Social Rights Initiative
Cathy Albisa, Executive Director
90 John Street, Suite 308
New York, NY 10038
Phone: 212-253-1710
Fax: 212-385-6124
cathy@nesri.org
www.nesri.org

International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies
(IAOHRA)
444 North Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 536
Washington, D.C. 20001
Phone: 202-624-5410
Fax: 202-624-8185
iaohra@sso.org
www.iaohra.org

National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
Eric Tars, Human Rights Program Director/
Children & Youth Staff Attorney
1411 K Street NW, Suite 1400
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202-638-2535
Fax: 202-628-2737
etars@nlchp.org
www.nlchp.org
wiki.nlchp.org

American Civil Liberties Union
National Legal Department, Human Rights Program
Jamil Dakwar, Director
125 Broad Street, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
Phone: 212-519-7850
Fax: 212-549-2651
jdakwar@aclu.org
www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights
Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute
Ann Fagan Ginger, Executive Director
P.O. Box 673
Berkeley, CA 94703
Phone: 510-848-0599
Fax: 510-848-6008
mcli@mcli.org
www.mcli.org

The Opportunity Agenda
Juhu Thukral, Director of Law and Advocacy
568 Broadway, Suite 302
New York, NY 10012
Phone: 212-334-5977
Fax: 212-334-2656
jthukral@opportunityagenda.org
www.opportunityagenda.org
U.S. Human Rights Network
Ajamu Baraka, Executive Director
Rachel Fowler, Associate Director
250 Georgia Avenue SW, Suite 330
Atlanta, GA 30312
Phone: 404-588-9761
Fax: 404-588-9763
abaraka@ushrnetwork.org
rfowler@ushrnetwork.org
www.ushrnetwork.org

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Appendix 23

Urban Justice Center, Human Rights Project
Ejim Dike, Director
123 William Street, 16th Floor
New York, NY 10038
Phone: 646-602-5628
Fax: 212-533-4598
edike@urbanjustice.org
www.urbanjustice.org
www.hrpujc.org
WILD for Human Rights
at Miller Institute
Berkeley Law
2850 Telegraph Avenue, Suite 500
Berkeley, CA 94705-7220
programs@wildforhumanrights.org
www.wildforhumanrights.org

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Appendix B: Eugene, Oregon Proclamation Declaring
Local Commitment to Human Rights
Eugene, Or., Proclamation
(Office of the Mayor, Dec. 10, 2008).
WHEREAS: The United Nations approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948; and
WHEREAS: The Universal Declaration is an historic document approved by the United States government; and
WHEREAS: The basic human rights addressed in the Universal Declaration include economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as
civil and political rights, all considered to be equally important in fostering human dignity and freedom; and
WHEREAS: The Universal Declaration calls for all people and governments at all levels to promote and respect the rights that it
recognizes, and provides a standard of achievement for governments throughout the world; and
WHEREAS: On April 21, 1999, City Council adopted Resolution No. 4589 affirming the City’s commitment to assuring the
human rights of all community members and pledging its adherence to the Universal Declaration; and
WHEREAS: On June 12, 2006, City Council reaffirmed the City’s commitment to adhere to the Universal Declaration by adopting Resolution No. 4881; and
WHEREAS: December 10, 2008, is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and this anniversary is
being celebrated throughout this nation and in nations across the globe,
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Kitty Piercy, Mayor of the City of Eugene, Oregon, do hereby proclaim the day of December 10, 2008, as
“City of Eugene International Human Rights Day”
and encourage all people to work together with me in the coming year on ways that we can achieve greater progress in respecting,
protecting, and fulfilling the full range of human rights contained in the Universal Declaration.

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Appendix 25

Appendix C: States, Cities, and Counties that have passed
Resolutions about CEDAW
This list was compiled by Sarah Albert of the YWCA and Billie Heller of the National Committee on the United Nations
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

States

California (twice)
Colorado
Connecticut (Senate)
Florida (House)
Hawaii
Illinois
Iowa
Maine
Massachusetts
New Hampshire
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island (General Assembly)
South Dakota (House)
Vermont
Washington (Senate)
Wisconsin (Senate)
West Virginia (House)
Territory of Guam

Cities

Auburn, CA
Avon Lake, OH
Bay Village, OH
Berea, OH
Berkeley, CA
Brook Park, OH
Burlington, VT
Chicago, IL
Cleveland Heights, OH
East Cleveland, OH
Evanston, IL
Fairview Park, OH

Fond du Lac, WI
Gainesville, FL
Highland Park, IL
Independence, OH
Iowa City, IA
Lakewood, OH
Los Angeles, CA
Louisville, KY
Madison, WI
Mayfield Heights, OH
Middleburg Heights, OH
Milwaukee, WI
Montpelier, VT
N. Olmsted, OH
New York City, NY
Olmsted Falls, OH
Parma Heights, OH
Philadelphia, PA
Pittsburgh, PA
Portland, ME
Redlands, CA
Rocky River, OH
Roseville, CA
San Bernardino, CA
San Diego, CA
San Francisco, CA
San Jose, CA
Santa Rosa, CA
Shaker Heights, OH
Spokane, WA
Strongsville, OH
University Heights, OH
Washington, DC
West Hollywood, CA
Westlake, OH

Counties

Alachua, FL
Cook Co, IL
Cuyahoga Co., OH
Dade Co., FL
Dane Co., WI
Fayette/Lexington Co., KY
Jefferson County Fiscal Court, KY
Los Angeles Co., CA
Marin Co., CA
Milwaukee Co., WI
Monterey Co., CA
San Francisco Co., CA
San Mateo Co., CA
Santa Barbara Co., CA
Santa Clara Co., CA
Santa Cruz Co., CA
Sonoma Co., CA
Spokane Co., WA
Ventura Co., CA

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Appendix D: Supporting and Implementing International
Human Rights Locally
Appendix D-1: Chicago, Illinois Resolution Supporting the CRC
Chi., IL, Resolution (City Council, Feb. 11, 2009).
WHEREAS, The City of Chicago has demonstrated a sustained commitment toward ensuring the realization of human rights for
all, including rights for women, laborers, and the homeless; and
WHEREAS, The City of Chicago has high aspirations and standards for its children and families and is constantly seeking ways to
improve their lives and ensure an environment that protects children’s health; and
WHEREAS, The City of Chicago is one of only two U.S. cities distinguished as a UNICEF Child Friendly City; and
WHEREAS, The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20,
1989 and became effective as an international treaty on September 2, 1990; and
WHEREAS, The Convention on the Rights of the Child is the only international human rights treaty to recognize the vital role of
the family and the parent-child relationship; and
WHEREAS, The United States and Somalia are the only two countries that have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the
Child; and
WHEREAS, The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child enhances Chicago’s stature as a municipal leader in
promoting the care and well-being of children; and
WHEREAS, The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the City Council is consistent with Chicago’s past
support of securing fundamental rights for the most vulnerable; and
WHEREAS, The adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child affirms Chicago’s commitment to protect children and
promote their rights; and
WHEREAS, The Convention would provide a single, comprehensive framework which can help the Chicago city government
assess and address, in a consistent manner, the rights and protections of our children; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED, That we, the Mayor and Members of the City Council of the City of Chicago, assembled this eleventh day of
February, 2009, do hereby affirm our support of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we will work to advance policies and practices that are in harmony with the principles of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child in all city agencies and organizations that address issues directly affecting the City’s children.

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Appendix 27

Appendix D-2: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Resolution Supporting U.S. Ratification
of CEDAW
Phila., Pa., Res. 980148 (City Council, Mar. 12, 1998).
Calling on the United States Senate to give its advice and consent in support of U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and further urging Pennsylvania’s Senators to take an active role
in support of its ratification.
WHEREAS, The United States participated in the formulation of a document entitled The Convention on the Elimination of all
forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the United Nations General Assembly adopted The Convention and
opened it for signature in December, 1979; and
WHEREAS, The spirit of the convention is rooted in the goals of the United Nations to affirm faith in fundamental human rights,
in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women, and as CEDAW provides a comprehensive framework for challenging the various forces that have created and sustained discrimination based upon sex; and
WHEREAS, CEDAW, often known as The Women’s Human Rights Treaty, obligates those countries which have ratified it to take
all appropriate measures to ensure the full development and advancement of women in all spheres, as well as to modify the social
and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women to eliminate prejudice, customs, and all other practices based on the idea of
inferiority or superiority of either sex; and
WHEREAS, To date, 161 countries, representing over half of the world’s countries, have ratified The Convention and yet the
United States has not done so; and
WHEREAS, There is precedent for the City of Philadelphia, as the home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, to take a
strong stand against all forms of discrimination, particularly discrimination against women, in that our Fair Practices Ordinance
prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national ancestry, age or handicap in housing,
public accommodations and employment; and
WHEREAS, The Constitution of our Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has spoken clearly for the equality of all its citizens regardless of sex in its equal rights amendment; and
WHEREAS, State and local governments have an appropriate and legitimate role in affirming the importance of international law
in our own communities as a universal norm and to serve as guides for public policy; and
WHEREAS, As one the oldest continuous democracies in the world it is an embarrassment that the United States has not ratified
The Convention; and
WHEREAS, The United States’ avoidance of ratifying CEDAW compromises our credibility and deprives the international community of our vast experience in combating discrimination; and
WHEREAS, Ratifying The Women’s Human Rights Treaty provides a unique opportunity to show the connections between effective and principled democratic governance and the eradication of all forms of discrimination; now therefore
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, That we hereby call on the United States Senate to give its advice and consent in support of U.S. ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination
Against Women (CEDAW) and further urge Pennsylvania’s Senators to take an active role in support of its ratification.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That a copy of this resolution be forwarded to every member of the United States Senate as evidence of this Council’s strong commitment to universal human rights.

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28 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

Appendix D-3: San Francisco, California Ordinance Implementing CEDAW Locally
S.F., Cal., SF CEDAW Ordinance, Ch. 12K (Board of Supervisors, 1998).
Local implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women
(cedaw)
Chapter 12K
Sec. 12K.1.Findings.
Sec. 12K.2. Definitions.
Sec. 12K.3. Local Principles of CEDAW.
Sec. 12K.4. Implementation of the Principles of CEDAW in San Francisco.
Sec. 12K.6. Summary of CEDAW.
Sec. 12K.1. Findings.
The Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco hereby finds and declares as follows:
(a.)	 Th
 e Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international human
rights treaty, provides a universal definition of discrimination against women and brings attention to a whole range of issues
concerning women’s human rights. Countries that ratify CEDAW are mandated to condemn all forms of discrimination
against women and girls and to ensure equality for women and girls in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural arenas.
The United Nations General Assembly adopted CEDAW in 1979 and President Carter signed the treaty on behalf of the
United States in 1980, but the United States Senate has not yet ratified CEDAW.
(b.)	 O
 n October 30, 1997, a consortium of community organizations, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Human
Rights Commission and Board of Supervisors President Barbara Kaufman held a hearing on the local implications of
CEDAW. The testimony at the hearing demonstrated that women and girls continue to face discrimination in the areas of
economic development and employment, violence against women and girls, and health care. On November 10, 1997, the
Board of Supervisors adopted Resolution No. 1021-97, supporting the local implementation of the underlying principles of
CEDAW and urging the United States Senate to ratify CEDAW. On November 17, 1997, Mayor Willie Brown approved
Resolution No. 1021-97.
(c.)	 Th
 ere is a continued need for the City and County of San Francisco to protect the human rights of women and girls by
addressing discrimination, including violence, against them and to implement, locally, the principles of CEDAW. Adherence
to the principles of CEDAW on the local level will especially promote equal access to and equity in health care, employment,
economic development and educational opportunities for women and girls and will also address the continuing and critical
problems of violence against women and girls. There is a need to analyze the operations of City departments, policies and programs to identify discrimination in, but not limited to, employment practices, budget allocation and the provision of direct
and indirect services and, if identified, to remedy that discrimination. In addition, there is a need to work toward implementing the principles of CEDAW in the private sector.
(d.)	 Th
 ere is a need to strengthen effective national and local mechanisms, institutions and procedures and to provide adequate
resources, commitment and authority to: (1) advise on the impact of all government policies on women and girls; (2) moni-

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Appendix 29

tor the situation of women comprehensively; and (3) help formulate new policies and effectively carry out strategies and
measures to eliminate discrimination. The Commission on the Status of Women shall be designated as the implementing and
monitoring agency of CEDAW in the City and County of San Francisco.
(e.)	 I n April 1998, the City and County of San Francisco originally enacted his ordinance implementing the principles underlying
CEDAW. In 1998, City officials and community representatives formed a CEDAW Task Force. In 1999, he CEDAW Task
Force and the Commission on the Status of Women developed “Guidelines for a Gender Analysis,” a set of guidelines to assist
City departments in implementing the local principles of CEDAW. In 1999, two City departments used the Guidelines to
analyze their departments. The resulting report, “A Gender Analysis: Implementing the Convention on the Elimination of
All Forms of Discrimination against Women” (November 1999) demonstrated a continuing need to work on elimination of
discrimination against women. The Report further revealed that discrimination based on gender is interconnected and often
overlaps with discrimination based on race and other criteria.
(f.)	 The Report called on the City and County of San Francisco and its departments to:
(1.)	 Increase education in human rights with a gender perspective;
(2.)	 Expand the collection of data disaggregated by gender, race and other traits; and
(3.)	 C
 reate a more fair and equitable workplace by increasing effective recruitment efforts for a diverse workforce, providing
meaningful family friendly policies to retain employees and increasing professional development and training opportunities for all employees. The Report revealed the need to analyze policies, procedures and programs on a Citywide, in
addition to, department level. Both the Report and the department human rights trainings revealed the need to consider
the intersection of gender and race in particular recognizing the unique experiences of women of color. (Added by Ord.
128-98, App. 4/13/98; amended by Ord. 325-00, File No. 001920, App. 12/28/2000)
Sec. 12K.2. Definitions.
As used in this Article, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings indicated herein:
(a.)	 “City or City and County” shall mean the City and County of San Francisco.
(b.)	 “Commission” shall mean the Commission on the Status of Women.
(c.)	 “Disaggregated data” shall mean information collected and analyzed by enumerated categories in order to identify the disparities existing between women and men. These categories shall include, to the extent permitted by law, sex, race, immigration
status, parental status, language, sexual orientation, disability, age and other attributes.
(d.)	 “Discrimination against women” shall include, but not be limited to, any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the
basis of sex that has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the
political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. The definition of discrimination includes gender-based violence,
that is, violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. It includes
acts that inflict physical, mental, or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty
by family, community or government.
(e.)	 “Gender” shall mean the way society constructs the difference between women and men, focusing on their different roles,
responsibilities, opportunities and needs, rather than their biological differences.
(f.)	 “Gender analysis” shall mean an examination of the cultural, economic, social, civil, legal and political relations between
women and men within a certain entity, recognizing that women and men have different social roles, responsibilities, oppor-

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30 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

tunities and needs and that these differences, which permeate our society, affect how decisions and policy are made.
(g.)	 “Gender equity” shall mean the redress of discriminatory practices and establishment of conditions enabling women to
achieve full equality with men, recognizing that needs of women and men may differ, resulting in fair and equitable outcomes
for both.
(h.)	 “Human rights” shall mean the rights every individual possesses that are intended to improve the conditions in society that
protect each person’s dignity and well-being and the humanity of all people.
(i.)	 “Racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, 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. (Added by Ord. 325-00, File No. 001920, App. 12/28/2000. Former Sec. 12K.2 renumbered as Sec. 12K.3 by
Ord. 325-00)
Sec. 12K.3. Local Principles of Cedaw.
It shall be the goal of the City to implement the principles underlying CEDAW, listed in Section 12K.6 by addressing discrimination against women and girls in areas including economic development, violence against women and girls and health care. In implementing CEDAW, the City recognizes the connection between racial discrimination, as articulated in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and discrimination against women. The City shall ensure that the
City does not discriminate against women in areas including employment practices, allocation of funding and delivery of direct and
indirect services. The City shall conduct gender analyses, as described in Section 12K.4, to determine what, if any, City practices
and policies should change to implement the principles of CEDAW.
(a.)	 Economic Development.
(1.)	 Th
 e City shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women and girls in the City of San Francisco in employment and other economic opportunities, including, but not limited to, ensuring:
(A.)	 Th
 e right to the same employment opportunities, including the application of the same criteria for selection in matters
of employment and the right to receive access to and vocational training for nontraditional jobs;
(B.)	 Th
 e right to promotion, job security and all benefits and conditions of service, regardless of parental status, particularly
encouraging the appointment of women to decision making posts, City revenue generating and managing commissions
and departments, and judicial positions;
(C.)	 The right to equal remuneration, including benefits and to equal pay in respect to work of equal value;
(D.)	 Th
 e right to the protection of health and safety in working conditions, including supporting efforts not to purchase
sweatshop goods, regular inspection of work premises, and protection from violent acts at the workplace.
(2.)	 Th
 e City shall encourage and, where possible, fund the provisions of the necessary supporting social services to enable
parents to combine family obligations with work responsibilities and participation in public life, in particular through
promoting the establishment and development of a network of child care facilities, paid family leave, family-friendly policies and work-life balance.
(3.)	 Th
 e City shall encourage the use of public education and all other available means to urge financial institutions to facilitate women’s access to bank accounts, loans, mortgages, and other forms of financial services.
(b.)	 Violence Against Women and Girls.

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(1.)	 Th
 e City shall take and diligently pursue all appropriate measures to prevent and redress sexual and domestic violence
against women and girls, including, but not limited to:
(A.)	 Police enforcement of criminal penalties and civil remedies, when appropriate;
(B.)	 Providing appropriate protective and support services for survivors, including counseling and rehabilitation programs;
(C.)	 P
 roviding gender-sensitive training of City employees regarding violence against women and girls, where appropriate;
and
(D.)	 P
 roviding rehabilitation programs for perpetrators of violence against women or girls, where appropriate. The City
shall not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, culture, language or sexual orientation, when providing the above
supportive services.
(2.)	 I t shall be the goal of the City to take all necessary measures to protect women and girls from sexual harassment in their
places of employment, school, public transportation, and any other places where they may be subject to harassment. Such
protection shall include streamlined and rapid investigation of complaints.
(3.)	 P
 rostitutes are especially vulnerable to violence because their legal status tends to marginalize them. It shall be the policy
of San Francisco that the Police Department diligently investigate violent attacks against prostitutes and take efforts to
establish the level of coercion involved in the prostitution, in particular where there is evidence of trafficking in women
and girls. It shall be the goal of the City to develop and fund projects to help prostitutes who have been subject to violence
and to prevent such acts.
(4.)	 Th
 e City shall ensure that all public works projects include measures, such as adequate lighting, to protect the safety of
women and girls.
(5.)	 I t shall be the goal of the City to fund public information and education programs to change traditional attitudes concerning the roles and status of women and men.
(c.)	 Health Care.
(1.)	 I t shall be the goal of the City to take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women and girls in the
field of health care in order to ensure, on a basis of equity, information about and access to adequate health care facilities
and services, according to the needs of all communities, regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, language, and sexual orientation, including information, counseling and services in family planning.
(2.)	 I t shall be the goal of the City to ensure that women and girls receive appropriate services in connection with prenatal care,
delivery, and the post-natal period, granting free services where possible, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy
and lactation.
(d.)	 I n undertaking the enforcement of this ordinance, the City is assuming a undertaking only to promote the general welfare. It
is not assuming, nor is it imposing on its officers and employees, an obligation for breach of which it is liable in money damages to any person who claims that such breach proximately caused injury. (Formerly Sec. 12K.2; added by Ord. 128-98, App.
4/13/98; renumbered and amended by Ord. 325-00, File No. 001920, App. 12/28/2000)
Sec. 12K.4. Implementation of the Principles of Cedaw in San Francisco.
(a.)	 C
 itywide integration of human rights principles. The City shall work towards integrating gender equity and human rights
principles into all of its operations, including policy, program and budgetary decision-making. The Commission shall train
selected departments in human rights with a gender perspective.

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32 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

(b.)	 G
 ender Analysis and Action Plan. As a tool for determining whether the City is implementing the local principles of CEDAW
and/or discriminating against women and girls, selected City departments, programs, policies, and private entities to the
extent permitted by law, shall undergo a gender analysis and develop an Action Plan. The gender analysis shall be conducted
according to guidelines developed by the CEDAW Task Force and Commission. The gender analysis shall include:
(i.)	 the collection of disaggregated data;
(ii.)	 a n evaluation of gender equity in the entity’s operations, including its budget allocations, delivery of direct and indirect services and employment practices and
(iii.)	 t he entity’s integration of human rights principles and the local principles of CEDAW as set forth in section 12K.3.
Upon completion of the gender analysis, the entity shall develop an Action Plan that contains specific recommendations on how it will correct any identified deficiencies and integrate human rights principles and the local principles
of CEDAW into its operations.
(1.)	 Th
 e CEDAW Task Force shall identify the City departments, programs, policies, and entities, to undergo the gender
analysis and shall develop timelines for completion of the analyses and Action Plans. In the absence of Task Force action,
the Commission shall make the selections.
(2.)	 Th
 e Commission shall train the selected department, entity, policy or program staff to conduct its gender analysis
and shall provide technical assistance to the entity throughout the gender analysis process and development of the
Action Plan.
(3.)	 E
 ach department or entity undergoing a gender analysis shall designate a management and/or executive level employee to
serve as a liaison to the Commission and
(4.)	 E
 ach department or entity undergoing a gender analysis shall provide a report on its gender analysis and its Action Plan
to the CEDAW Task Force and the Commission, which shall review, analyze and comment on the report and forward it
to the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor.
(5.)	 The Commission shall monitor the implementation of each department or entity’s Action Plan.
(c.)	 F
 ive-year Citywide Action Plan. Provided sufficient funds are available, the Commission and the CEDAW Task Force shall
jointly develop a five-year Citywide Action Plan. The Citywide Action Plan shall address how to integrate human rights principles into the City’s operations, how to further implement the local principles of CEDAW as described in Section 12K.3,
any and all deficiencies found in the gender analyses and the measures recommended to correct those deficiencies. The Commission and the CEDAW Task Force shall present the Action Plan to the Mayor and the Boar of Supervisors on or before
December 30, 2002. The Board of Supervisors Committee responsible for considering the City’s budget shall hold a hearing
to receive the Citywide Action Plan and public comment thereon. The Commission shall monitor the implementation of
the Citywide Action Plan. (Formerly Sec. 12K.3; added by Ord. 128-98, App. 4/13/98; renumbered and amended by Ord.
325-00, File No.001920, App. 12/28/2000)
Sec. 12K.5. Cedaw Task Force.
(a.)	 E
 stablishment. A CEDAW Task Force is hereby established. The Task Force shall report to the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors and the Commission. The Commission shall provide administrative support for the Task Force. The Task Force shall
consist of 11 members.
(b.)	 P
 urpose. The Task Force is established to advise the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors and the Commission about the local
implementation of CEDAW.

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(c.)	 P
 owers and Duties. The Task Force shall have all powers and duties necessary to carry out the local implementation of
CEDAW as described in Section 12K.4.
(d.)	 Membership and Organization.
(1.)	 The members of the Task Force shall be as follows:
(A.)	 The President of the Human Rights Commission or her or his designee;
(B.)	 A staff member from the Mayor’s Office knowledgeable about the City’s budget, to be designated by the Mayor;
(C.)	 The head of the Department of Human Resources or her or his designee;
(D.)	 The President of the Board of Supervisors or her or his designee;
(E.)	 The President of the Commission or her or his designee;
(F.)	 Six members from the community to be appointed by the Commission, as follows:
(i.)	 Two representatives shall work in the field of international human rights and be knowledgeable about CEDAW,
(ii.)	 One representative shall be knowledgeable about economic development, including employment issues,
(iii.)	 One representative shall be knowledgeable about health care issues,
(iv.)	 One representative shall be knowledgeable about violence against women, and
(v.)	 One representative shall be knowledgeable about City unions and experienced in women’s issues.
(2.)	 The Task Force shall convene by June 1, 1998.
(3.)	 Th
 e Task Force shall expire on December 31, 2002, unless its powers are renewed by the Board of Supervisors. When the
Task Force expires, the Commission shall take on the leadership and responsibilities previously designated to the Task Force.
(4.)	 A
 ll appointed members of Task Force shall serve at the pleasure of their appointing authorities. The term of each community member of the CEDAW Task Force shall be for two years; provided however, that the initial members shall, by
lot, classify their terms so that three members shall serve a two-year term and two members shall serve a three-year term.
Subject to the expiration of the Task Force, their successors shall be appointed for a two-year term; provided, however,
that any member may be reappointed for consecutive terms.
(e.)	 A
 lternate members. An alternate may be designated for each member. Ex officio members enumerated in Subsection (d)1(A)(E) may designate a person to serve as her or his alternate. The Commission may appoint alternate members for those community members enumerated in Subsection (d)(1)(F). The term of office of the alternate shall be the same as that of the
regular member. When the regular member is not present at the meeting of the Task Force, the alternate may act as the regular
member and shall have all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of the regular member.
(f.)	 A
 ttendance requirement. The President of the Commission, or her or his designee, shall monitor the attendance of the Task
Force. In the event that any community member, enumerated in Subsection (d)(1)(F), and her or his alternate miss three
regularly scheduled meetings of the Task Force without the prior notice to the Task Force, the President or her or his designee shall certify in writing to the Commission that the member and alternate have missed three meetings. On the date of
such certification, the member and alternate shall be deemed to have resigned from the Task Force. The President or her or
his designee shall notify the Commission of the resignation and request the appointment of a new member and alternate.
(Formerly Sec. 12K.4; added by Ord. 128-98, App. 4/13/98; renumbered and amended by Ord. 325-00, File No. 001920,

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34 State and Local Human Rights Agencies

App. 12/28/2000)
Sec. 12K.6. Summary of Cedaw.
Article 1.	 D
 efines discrimination against women as any “distinction, exclusion, or restriction made on the basis of sex which
has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective
of marital status, on the basis of equality between men and women, of human rights or fundamental freedom in
the political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other field.”
Article 2.	 M
 andates concrete steps, implementing laws, policies and practices to eliminate discrimination against women
and embody the principle of equality.
Article 3.	 Requires action in all fields—civil, political, economic, social, and cultural—to advance the human rights of women.
Article 4.	 Permits affirmative action measures to accelerate equality and eliminate discrimination.
Article 5.	 Recognizes the role of culture and tradition, and calls for the elimination of sex role stereotyping.
Article 6.	 Requires suppression of traffic in women and exploitation of prostitutes.
Article 7.	 Mandates ending discrimination against women in political and public life.
Article 8.	 Requires action to allow women to represent their governments internationally on an equal basis with men.
Article 9.	 M
 andates that women will have equal rights with men to acquire, change or retain their nationality and that of
their children.
Article 10.	 O
 bligates equal access to all fields of education and the elimination of stereotyped concepts of the roles of men
and women.
Article 11.	 Mandates the end of discrimination in the field of employment and recognizes the right to work as a human right.
Article 12.	 R
 equires steps to eliminate discrimination from the field of health care, including access to family planning. If
necessary, these services must be free of charge.
Article 13.	 Requires that women be ensured equal access to family benefits, bank loans, credit, sports and cultural life.
Article 14.	 Focuses on the particular problems faced by rural women.
Article 15.	 Guarantees equality before the law and equal access to administer property.
Article 16.	 Requires steps to ensure equality in marriage and family relations.
Article 17.	 Calls for the establishment of a committee to evaluate the progress of the implementation of CEDAW.
Article 18-30.	 S et forth elements of the operation of the treaty. (Formerly Sec. 12K.5; added by Ord. 128-98, App. 4/13/98;
renumbered by Ord. 325-00, File No. 001920, App. 12/28/2000).

Recommendations for Advancing Opportunity and Equality Through an International Human Rights Framework

 

 

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