High Commissioner: Complacency is discrimination’s best friend

Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay calls on individuals worldwide to make an extra effort to tackle discrimination starting from their own homes and workplaces.

Embrace Diversity, end discrimination, the theme of Human Rights Day 2009- © OHCHR“Discrimination makes no social sense, no moral sense and no economic sense. In fact it makes no sense at all,” Pillay on 8 December told a press conference focusing on non-discrimination, the theme of this year’s Human Rights Day.

“We all, and here I include myself, have a tendency to hold ingrained prejudices against certain people because of the group they belong to rather than because of who they actually are as individuals.”

The High Commissioner shared how she confronted her own prejudices in an earlier stage of her life shaped by the fact that she grew up in apartheid South Africa.

“You cannot defeat discrimination by shutting your eyes to it and hoping that it will go away. Complacency is discrimination’s best friend,” she said.

“It is my hope that starting on this Human Rights Day, people will begin making an extra effort to think about these issues, and about how they as individuals can take action in their own homes, in the work place and in society at large to first of all identify discrimination, and then tackle it, wherever it raises its ugly head,” said Pillay.

Every year on Human Rights Day, 10 December, the global community commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948.

Human Rights Day this year focuses on “Embrace Diversity: End Discrimination.” The High Commissioner will be in South Africa to preside over a panel of high level judges sitting in the first ever World Human Rights Moot Court competition at the University of Pretoria. Students worldwide will argue a fictional human rights case on the principle of non-discrimination at the event organised by the University and supported by the human rights office.

On Human Rights Day there is a public celebration planned for Freedom Park at which the High Commissioner will speak along with representatives from the Government, civil society and academia. This gathering, organised by the South African Government in partnership with the High Commissioner’s Office, will also feature a performance from the famous South African singer, Yvonne Chaka-Chaka.

In New York too, Human Rights Day is celebrated over a week which started with a special event to mark the 30th Anniversary of the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. A special panel discussion on discrimination entitled: “Race, Poverty and Power” will take place, to be followed by the 12th annual student conference on human rights with an international discussion via a video link-up of students in New York, France and Mexico as a finale.

And in Geneva, women from 28 countries will convene for an international summit, “The Courage to Lead: A Human Rights Summit for Women Leaders”. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang will deliver a key-note address to delegates who will focus their discussions on the protection of human rights for women and the best ways women leaders can contribute in their own countries.

View the High Commissioner's statement:

8 December 2009