Message of the Secretary-General of United Nations on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Forty-five years ago today, 69 demonstrators were shot and killed in the Sharpeville massacre, during a non-violent protest against apartheid. Each year, the United Nations marks this anniversary by drawing special attention tithe continuing fight against all forms of racial discrimination.

Despite decades of efforts to eradicate it, the virus of racism continues to infect human relations and human institutions in all parts of our globe. Today, the old strains of this disease, such as institutionalized discrimination, indirect disadvantage, racist violence, hate crimes, harassment and persecution, are compounded by new forms of discrimination, seemingly defying many of the gains we have made. The Internet is used for the propagation of racism, the number of victims of human trafficking is growing, xenophobic arguments in political discourse are on the rise, and innocent people are “racially profiled” in the name of distorted notions of security. Even anti-Semitism is once again rearing its ugly head, six decades after the liberation of extermination camps in which the entire world saw the barbaric extremes to which racism, if not confronted, can lead.

No one can be neutral in the fight against such intolerance. And we must not give up either the struggle against racism or hope for victory. In 2001, the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance adopted the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action as a blueprint for States to work together to eradicate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Education and awareness-raising, effective national laws and policies, unbiased media: each of these can help foster a culture of tolerance and peace. With the joint commitment of human rights defenders, governments, courts, parliaments, non-governmental organizations and independent national human, we can and must overcome.