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How is our work influencing life in Northern Ireland and delivering equality? Learn more about our policy, legal and research work.

Advancing racial equality

Recent recommendations
by Human Rights bodies

What you need to know


Advancing racial equality - Recent Human Rights Recommendations

In brief:
  • Recently, a number of human rights bodies have called for action to advance racial equality aligned to a number of the Equality Commission’s priority areas: Law Reform; Hate Crime; Travellers & Roma; Asylum Seekers & Refugees; Action Plans & Data / Evaluation.
  • The information below provides an update on these recent developments, and sets out the steps that government and stakeholders can take to advance racial equality; reform race law, policy and practice; and ensure compliance with human rights standards.

What have human rights bodies recommended?

The Equality Commission continues to work to advance key policy priorities and recommendations for racial equality in Northern Ireland.  This includes direct engagement with key international human rights bodies.

Recently, three international human rights bodies have recommended action by government which, if implemented, would advance racial equality in Northern Ireland. The three bodies are:
  • UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
  • European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)
  • Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM)

Here are some of the key recommendations aligned to areas that the Equality Commission has identified as priorities for change:

Law reform

The authorities should:

  • act without further delay to adopt comprehensive legislation prohibiting racial discrimination in accordance with the provisions of the Convention (CERD 2016 - pdf)
  • consolidate equality legislation into a single, comprehensive equality act, taking inspiration from the Equality Act 2010, and taking account of the recommendations of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECRI 2016 - pdf)
  • adopt robust and comprehensive single equality legislation or otherwise strengthen racial equality in Northern Ireland, and harmonise protection across the UK. (FCNM 2017 - pdf)

Race hate crime and hate speech

The authorities should:

  • investigate all reported acts of racist hate crimes, prosecute and punish the perpetrators with sanctions commensurate with the gravity of the offence, and provide effective remedies to victims (CERD 2016 - pdf)
  • intensify their efforts to raise public trust in the effectiveness of the legal remedies available against hate crime by increasing communication on cases, and recording and publicising the application of enhanced sentencing, where imposed. (FCNM 2017 - pdf)
  • further improve training of law enforcement to detect, investigate and bring to justice all hate speech and hate-motivated offences (FCNM 2017 - pdf)
  • Political parties [should] take a firm stand against intolerant discourse and instruct their representatives to refrain from making derogatory comments targeting a group of persons on grounds of their “race”, religion, citizenship, language, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or gender identity (ECRI 2016 - pdf)

Travellers and Roma

The authorities should:

  • develop a comprehensive strategy, in consultation with members of Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities…and ensure its effective implementation by adopting specific action plans and effective oversight and monitoring mechanisms (CERD 2016 - pdf)
  •  set up a multi-agency taskforce on Traveller sites in Northern Ireland to cater to the needs of Irish Travellers (FCNM 2017 - pdf)
  • monitors more closely hate crime against Gypsies, Travellers and Roma. (FCNM 2017 - pdf)

Asylum seekers and refugees

The authorities should:

  • develop a [Refugee Integration Strategy] for Northern Ireland to assist newly-arrived refugees, in particular as concerns housing, employment, access to welfare and learning English, and that refugee integration is systematically evaluated.  (ECRI 2016 - pdf)
  • [take] steps to ensure that refugees do not fall into destitution by prolonging the provision of asylum support until access to welfare benefits is obtained (ECRI 2016 - pdf)

Action plans and data/evaluation

The authorities should:

  • ensure that policy documents such as integration and race strategies are complemented by appropriate action plans and adequate resources to ensure effective access to rights for persons belonging to national and ethnic minorities, in particular as regards the Northern Ireland Racial Equality Strategy 2015-2025. (FCNM - pdf)
  • systematically collect and publish disaggregated data on the enjoyment of rights by members of ethnic minorities in all fields of life (CERD - pdf)
  • prioritise integrating the collection of disaggregated equality data on the situation of persons belonging to national and ethnic minorities into the practices of all relevant departments and agencies in Northern Ireland. (FCNM - pdf)
  • pay attention to the specificities of Gypsies, Travellers and Roma as distinct groups to reconfigure statistics and effectively tailor policy making to their needs and in consultation with their representatives (FCNM - pdf)

What is the importance of recommendations from international human rights bodies?

The recommendations made by international human rights bodies represent an authoritative view of compliance with the human rights standards that bind the UK in international law.

These recommendations reinforce the need to reform law, policy and practice in key areas, so as to deliver compliance with the human rights standards that bind the UK in international law.

How can I use the international recommendations/concluding observations?

Ministers, elected representatives and government officials
The authoritative view of international human rights bodies can be used to underpin and support actions by government to deliver compliance with the human rights standards that bind the UK in international law.

We recommend that government strategies, frameworks and action plans, including the Programme for Government and associated delivery plans, set out actions to address the above recommendations.

Wider stakeholders and representative groups
The obligations to which the UK is bound, and the associated recommendations from these authoritative international bodies, can be used to add weight and depth to your work to secure positive change.

We recommend that you call on government to address these specific recommendations in support of advancing racial equality and delivering fully on the human rights obligations that bind the UK.
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