On Nov. 5, Elce Redmond wasn’t just advocating for human rights issues on the West Side, but the entire country.
Redmond, a community organizer with the South Austin Coalition Community Council (SACCC), spoke at the United Nations Periodic Review (UNPR) of the United States by the U.N. Human Rights Council.
In 2009, SACCC joined the U.S. Human Rights Network (USHRN), a conglomeration of human rights advocacy organizations across the globe. Redmond’s sojourn was one, he hopes, of many such meetings with international human rights advocates.
“It was a great opportunity to address some of the issues we faced in America and to hear their feedback,” he said.
The event, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland, brought together delegates from various countries around the world to discuss the actions they have taken on human rights concerns facing their people.
The review has been in existence since 2006.
Even though the United States has played a significant role in the formation of the United Nations, the U.S. has not ratified many of its core human rights treaties, as issues such as segregation within communities and the widening gap between the rich and the poor continue to plague the country.
The review takes place every four years, so this was the first time the Obama administration submitted to the review regarding its record on human rights issues within the U.S.
Speaking to delegates of countries from Japan to the Netherlands, Redmond was vocal about human rights issues facing this country.
“I spoke about joblessness and a need to create a national jobs program,” he said. “The enormous number of people, particularly people of color, who have gone months without work or hope of getting work is perhaps the biggest human rights issue we face right now.”
Redmond also addressed the controversial Arizona law that calls for aliens to carry documentation at all times, and encourages police officers to request verification of citizenship from suspected illegals, which he calls “inhumane.”
“It just encourages racial profiling and is not what our country is about,” he said. “We need a precise immigration policy in place that will not criminalize illegals but give them an opportunity to gain legal citizenship in America.”
Redmond spoke about the global economic crisis, which originated from the lack of regulatory oversights in the financial market and the need for America to protect its citizens by monitoring the market in the future.
“Because of the shady goings-on on Wall Street, thousands of families were left without 401ks and had to help bail out the private sector,” said Redmond. “There must be more regulation of the financial markets to prevent this type of crisis from occurring again.”
Despite the importance of addressing daunting national concerns like poverty and unemployment, Redmond acknowledged that his trip was not well received by all, particularly conservative media outlets such as FOX News, which referred to those in attendance at the event as “disloyal Americans.”
“Some would say that it is wrong to air the dirty laundry of the country at the review,” said Redmond. “But I feel there is a certain amount of hypocrisy in the way we scrutinize Iran or China for their brutal regimes but don’t want to face criticism for our issues with poverty and racial discrimination,” he said.
Through the event was not endorsed by all, Redmond feels as though addressing human rights on a national level is a positive step toward equality throughout the world, and he intends to pressure those in the Department of Justice to take steps to heed those recommendations – in particular the creation of an effective jobs program.