Oct 21, 2019

Unrepresented People of the U.S.A.

The UNPO is campaigning on behalf of the people of District of Columbia, Guam and the other US Territories for recognition of the millions of, mostly minority and indigenous, US Citizens denied the right to vote because of where they live. This disenfranchisment has wide ranging nagative impacts on these people and for the US political system in general. 

In October 2019, the UNPO submitted a report to the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighting the long-standing denial of voting and representation rights to the people of the District of Columbia and the U.S. Territories. The report was submitted the framework of the 36th Session of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of human rights in the United States of America, which is being conducted in 2020. It highlights the often-forgotten link between the history of racial segregation in the USA and the denial of the voting rights of the inhabitants of the US Territories and the District of Columbia, the majority of whom are both US citizens or nationals, and ethnic or racial minorities or indigenous peoples.

We are currently working to ensure that the UN reports and the statements of UN member states in and around the UPR process reflect the urgent need to resolve the disenfranchisement of these US citizens and nationals. The urgency of this issue has only been highlighted further by the events of 2020. We have witnessed shocking disparities with regards to the US government's funding of the US Territories and the District of Columbia during the Coronavirus crisis and between white and non-white populations of the USA in terms of health outcomes. And the current protests against racial injustices across in the USA have further emphasized the vulnerability that the residents of US Territories and the District of Columbia (and non-white populations more generally) face to the exercise of police power, and indeed the similarities between this injustice and the opression of UNPO member peoples around the world.

The UPR is a mechanism designed to monitor how recognised states at the UN implement the Treaties they are subject to in terms of Human Rights.

The submission provides additional information on the implementation of civil and political rights in the United States of America (U.S.A. or U.S.). It focusses on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Liberties (ICCPR or the Covenant) and the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the disenfranchisement of the people of the District of Columbia and the five, permanently-inhabited, “unincorporated” U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands). Because of legal restrictions on the citizenship rights of these people, currently over 4 million people in the U.S.A. are summarily denied the right to vote by law simply on account of their national origin, birth or place of residence in direct contravention of U.S. obligations contained in the ICCPR and the CERD.

In light of the discrimination listed in the submission, the UNPO asks the U.S.A. to:

i. Allow all Citizens and Nationals of the U.S.A. the right to participate on equal basis in the elections for the U.S. President.

ii. Grant full and equal representation in the U.S. Congress to the people of the District of Columbia and the U.S. Territories, by for instance, putting the elected representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives on an equal footing with other representatives, and giving the District of Columbia and the U.S. Territories representation in the U.S. Senate.

iii. Take steps to ensure that the will of the people in the District of Columbia and the U.S. Territories with regards to the question of their political status is adequately accorded by, for instance, ensuring a process towards statehood in light of the referenda results in Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, and by determining a way through which the indigenous populations of U.S. colonial possessions can adequately express their political will.

To read the full UNPO Alternative UPR Report on U.S.A. click here.

Illustration: By Lightspring