US Government to Take on Human Rights Recommendations

US Government to Take on Human Rights Recommendations
November 9, 2010

Monique Harden, Co-Director & Attorney
Advocates for Environmental Human Rights

Environmental Justice and Internally Displaced New Orleanians
and Gulf Region Residents Are Part of UN Human Rights Council’s
Review of the United States

In a first-time review of the United States Government’s human rights record, known as the Universal Periodic Review (“UPR”), over 200 recommendations for protecting human rights were presented to the US Government. The United Nations Human Rights Council, which conducts the UPR, prepared a report on human rights issues in the United States that included criticism of the government’s role in preventing displaced residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Region from returning home. “Not enough has been done at the federal, state, or local level to replace affordable rental units, public housing, as well as schools and hospitals, failings which have disproportionately impacted the poor and communities of colour,” according to the UN Human Rights Council’s report. In addition to numerous other human rights issues, the UN Human Rights Council’s report acknowledges the racial discrimination that results from US environmental standards.

Representatives of the US Government participating in the UPR in Geneva, Switzerland issued a written statement in response to the 228 human rights recommendations, noting that some of the recommendations fall within the Obama Administration’s agenda, while others merit a fuller discussion with federal, state, and local governments and the public. The US Government’s statement groups the recommendations into ten categories, several of which focus on the human rights violation of racial discrimination. According to the US Government’s statement, there will be an inter-agency examination of all the human rights recommendations in preparation for a follow-up UN Human Rights Council session in March 2011.

“This is a positive step forward by our government that promises a full and just recovery for people in New Orleans and the Gulf Region, who have suffered 5 major disasters in the last 5 years, as well as achieving environmental justice,” said Monique Harden, Co-Director and Attorney of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights (“AEHR”) in New Orleans, Louisiana.

AEHR and several community organizations will convene a forum today to discuss the UPR human rights recommendations and the US Government’s response, highlight human rights advocacy undertaken by local groups, and feature cultural arts performances. The forum takes place at First Grace United Methodist Church in New Orleans at 5:30 pm today.

AEHR co-wrote a report on the human rights abuses taking place in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that was incorporated in the UN Human Rights Council’s report on the United States. In addition, AEHR filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States charging the US Government with violating the human rights of African American residents of Mossville, Louisiana who suffer from industrial toxic pollution and environmental damage allowed under the flawed U.S. environmental regulatory system. In March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled that the Mossville human rights petition was admissible for a review on the merits, marking the first time that an international human rights tribunal has taken jurisdiction over a case of environmental racism in the United States.