We fight racism everywhere, every day – throughout the year. But 21 March is a special day, proclaimed by the General Assembly in October 1966 as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This Year 2015, and as requested by the General Assembly, Presidents of the General Assembly and of the Human Rights Council will convene meetings both in New York and Geneva during the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination through a debate on the state of racial discrimination worldwide.
This year’s theme “Learning from historical tragedies to combat racial discrimination today” aims to explore the root causes of racism and racial discrimination and will stress the essential need to learn the lessons history has provided in order to combat racism and racial discrimination today.
Message of the Secretary-General for 2015:
Every day, people of all ages endure hatred, injustice and humiliation because of their skin colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, or other supposedly racial characteristics. Such discrimination has underpinned oppression, poverty, slavery, genocide and war.
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is an opportunity to renew our commitment to building a world of justice and equality where xenophobia and bigotry do not exist. We must learn the lessons of history and acknowledge the profound damage caused by racial discrimination. That means carefully preserving the memory of historical wrongs so we may use our knowledge to eradicate prejudice and teach tolerance, non-discrimination and respect for diversity everywhere and for all.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the launch of the International Decade for People of African Descent. In the past fifty years, there has been progress in the fight against racism and racial discrimination. We have seen the end of colonialism, the dismantling of apartheid and the rise of a global movement for equality. Yet, as history and current events attest, racial discrimination still presents a clear danger to people and communities in all regions.
Lasting peace can only be built on the premise that all people have equal rights and dignity – regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, social or other status. To that end, I urge all nations to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, to promote historical accuracy and put in place robust policies and laws that will end all forms of discrimination as enshrined in the Convention.
Learn more about the International Day here.