International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
Children in a camp for internally displaced people in Haiti. UN Photo/Logan Abassi
2019 Theme: Mitigating and countering rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies
Racist extremist movements based on ideologies that seek to promote populist, nationalist agendas are spreading in various parts of the world, fueling racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, often targeting migrants and refugees as well as people of African descent.
In its recent resolution on eliminating racism, the United Nations General Assembly reiterated that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and have the potential to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of their societies. The resolution also emphasized that any doctrine of racial superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous and must be rejected, together with theories that attempt to determine the existence of separate human races.
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Children behind fence that separates them from the white community near Johannesburg during time of apartheid in South Africa. UN Photo
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid “pass laws”. Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination (resolution 2142 (XXI)).
In 1979, the General Assembly adopted a Programme of activities to be undertaken during the second half of the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (A/RES/34/24). On that occasion, the General Assembly decided that a week of solidarity with the peoples struggling against racism and racial discrimination, beginning on 21 March, would be organized annually in all States.
Since then, the apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled. Racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries, and we have built an international framework for fighting racism, guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Convention is now nearing universal ratification, yet still, in all regions, too many individuals, communities and societies suffer from the injustice and stigma that racism brings.
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A family living in a shelter in Sri Lanka funded by the UN Peacebuilding Fund. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
- International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)
- Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice
- Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
- Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference
- Political Declaration adopted at the 10-year anniversary of the Durban Conference
- Resolution proclaiming 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (A/RES/2142 (XXI))
- Resolution proclaiming the Week of Solidarity with the Peoples Struggling against Racism and Racial Discrimination (A/RES/34/24)
Reports of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
Other official documents