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Racism is alive and still plagues every society, say UN experts

Statement by a group of UN independent human rights experts to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March 2010)

GENEVA – “People continue to lose their lives or have their lives blighted by racism in all regions of the world,” recall a group of UN experts 50 years on from the tragic events of Sharpeville, where the police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the South African apartheid ‘pass laws’. Their clear message: racism is not only yesterday’s problem - but an immense challenge for today.

“Racism is alive and still plagues every society,” say the group of human rights experts on 21 March, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“Be it the migrant worker who faces daily discrimination due to his or her status as non-citizen, the individual who cannot find suitable employment because of his or her colour, the member of an ethnic minority who is prevented from getting equal access to education due to his or her minority status, or the woman who is enforced into slavery because of her descent, all these people remind us about the continuous suffering caused by racism on the daily lives of millions worldwide,” state the UN experts.

“The 50th Anniversary of the Sharpeville events is a day to remember and to pay tribute to the many who fell, but also the many who continue the struggle against racism - helping to make a difference to their own lives and the lives of others.” The experts praise the courage and determination of those ordinary, and yet extraordinary people, who tear down the walls of segregation, challenge the doctrine of racism, and peacefully build bridges of understanding and acceptance.

“Too many States are failing to fulfil their obligations to act against racism, or, in some instances, are perpetrators of it,” warn the group of experts. While celebrating the significant progress in many States, they note that “everyday, in every region, often in the face of adversity, people stand up against racism and injustice. Those people should expect the States where they live to be their strongest allies, protecting and supporting in their daily fight against racism.”

The experts emphasize that “March 21st is also a day to reflect about past commitments, to look forward and to set new and higher expectations for the future - to recognize that despite our successes, individuals, families and communities continue to have their lives ruined by racism and racial discrimination and that we need to continue our struggle for equality and dignity for all people, everywhere.”

(*) The experts are:
The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mr. Githu Muigai: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/rapporteur/index.htm
The Independent Expert on minority issues, Ms. Gay McDougall: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/minorities/expert/index.htm
The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Mr. Jorge A. Bustamante: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/migration/rapporteur/index.htm
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Ms. Margaret Sekaggya: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/defenders/index.htm
The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Frank La Rue: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/opinion/index.htm

Check the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cerd.htm