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The UN provides guidance and tools to act now and take concrete steps against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. This guide will help you navigate the highlights of three fundamental documents.

What is the DDPA?

The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

What is the ICERD?

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

What is the DECADE?

The Programme of activities for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent.

Decorative illustration with three silhouette faces in colors

What is the DDPA?

It stands for the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. It’s one of the UN’s go-to documents to tackle racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance globally.

What makes it unique?

The DDPA is both a historic and forward-looking document adopted by consensus at the 2001 World Conference against Racism. It recognizes in particular that:

  • No country can claim to be free of racism
  • Every one should fight racism
  • People often suffer from multiple forms of discrimination
  • Slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity
  • Colonialism led to racism and its consequences persist to this day
  • The Holocaust must never be forgotten

Why is it so vital?

The DDPA provides a comprehensive vision and a practical roadmap to put an end to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and to prevent their future occurrence. While the DDPA isn’t a binding document, it represents the bold commitment of the international community and guides efforts and actions to tackle racism at the national, regional and international levels. The DDPA holds countries responsible of combating racism and protecting the human rights of all victims of racism. It also calls for the active involvement of civil society.

What should countries do?

The DDPA provides a wide-ranging set of concrete measures for countries to adopt to fight racism, which include:

  • Specific laws and policies
  • Comprehensive national action plans
  • Education and awareness-raising
  • Prosecution of perpetrators of racist acts
  • Effective remedies and redress for victims
  • Research and disaggregated data collection
  • Measures to counter incitement to racial hatred in the media, including on the Internet
  • Measures of affirmative action to create equal opportunities

The DDPA recognizes that we must address the consequences of colonialism, enslavement and the slave trade to effectively address lasting social and economic inequalities and dismantle discriminatory structures and institutions.

Who are the victims?

The DDPA is a breakthrough document that places victims at the centre of the fight against racism:

  • Africans and people of African descent
  • Roma, Gypsies, Sinti, Travellers
  • Asians and people of Asian descent
  • Migrants
  • Indigenous peoples
  • Victims of human trafficking
  • Refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons
  • Persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, including Jewish, Muslim and Arab communities


What is ICERD?

It stands for the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

It’s binding!

It is the first of nine human rights treaties that countries can ratify, by that committing to fulfill the specific human rights obligations they contain.

Who watches over it?

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the group of independent experts who oversees the implementation of ICERD.

CERD periodically reviews the performance of countries that have ratified ICERD and publishes recommendations.

Can anyone speak to CERD?

CERD can receive complaints about alleged violations of ICERD from individuals, but only if their country has recognized its competence to do so. Also, people can send complaints only if they meet several conditions, including having first used the complaint procedures in their country.

It defines racial discrimination

In ICERD, racial discrimination means

any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life (article 1).

It condemns:

  • Discriminatory propaganda 
  • Racial discrimination
  • Racial segregation and apartheid
  • Organizations based on ideas of racial superiority
  • Justification or promotion of racial hatred

What does ICERD require from countries?

  • Not to sponsor, defend or support racial discrimination by any persons or organizations
  • To prohibit and bring to an end, including by adopting laws, racial discrimination by any persons, group or organization
  • To review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which create or perpetuate racial discrimination
  • To combat prejudices which lead to racial discrimination in the fields of education, culture and information
  • To encourage multiracial organizations and movements and other means of eliminating barriers between races
  • To ensure the special protection of certain racial groups or individuals belonging to them to guarantee them the full and equal enjoyment of human rights
Countries must prohibit and eliminate racial dis crimination and guarantee the rights of anyone to enjoy these rights:
  • Equal treatment before the tribunals and all other organs administering justice.
  • The right to freedom of movement and residence within the border of the State.
  • The right to marriage and choice of spouse.
  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  • The rights to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work.
  • The right to public health, medical care, social security and social services.
  • The right of access to any place or service intended for use by the general public.
  • The right to security of person and protection by the State against violence or bodily harm.
  • The right to leave any country, including one's own, and to return to one's country.
  • The right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
  • The right to freedom of opinion and expression.
  • The rights to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, to just and favourable remuneration.
  • The right to education and training.
  • The right to housing.
  • Political rights, including to participate in elections (to vote and to stand for election).
  • The right to nationality.
  • The right to inherit.
  • The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  • The right to form and join trade unions.
  • The right to equal participation in cultural activities.

Has your country ratified ICERD?

Find out if your country has ratified ICERD and if the Committee can receive individual complaints about your country.





What is the DECADE and its programme of activities?

It's an instrument that advocates for the promotion and protection of the human rights of people of African descent and their full inclusion in society.

It provides action-oriented recommendations in the areas of recognition, justice and development.

In 2013, the UN General Assembly announced 2015-2024 to be the International Decade for people of African Descent with the theme “People of African descent: recognition, justice and development.”

The Decade's objectives

  • To strengthen national, regional and international action and cooperation to achieve the full enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights by people of African descent and their full and equal participation in all aspects of society.
  • To promote a greater knowledge of and respect for the diverse heritage, culture and contribution of people of African descent to the development of societies.
  • To adopt and strengthen national, regional and international legal frameworks in accordance with the DDPA and ICERD, and to ensure their full and effective implementation.

Role of the international community

  • Raise awareness about the Decade.
  • Widely disseminate the DDPA.
  • Promote the ratification and implementation of ICERD.
  • Incorporate human rights into development programmes.
  • Prioritise the collection of data.
  • Support initiatives to honour and preserve historical memory of people of African Descent.
  • Engage with people of African descent on how to halt and reverse the lasting consequences of slavery.
  • Integrate the goals aimed at eliminating racism against people of African descent in UN discussions on development.

Countries should step up and guarantee


  • Right to equality and non-discrimination.
  • Education on equality and awareness raising.
  • Information gathering.
  • Participation and inclusion.


  • Access to justice.
  • Special measures, such as affirmative action.


  • Right to development and measures against poverty.

Education, employment, health and housing

And fight against multiple or aggravated forms of discrimination.



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