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Racism harms everyone- let’s act now to end it

Two women in a crowd embrace as they demonstrate for racial justice, Seattle, USA, 10 June 2020. © Duncan Shaffer/UNSPLASH

This year, as we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, everyone around the world is invited to fight racial discrimination, hatred, bigotry and violence, and work together to build societies that foster equality, respect and justice.

“With dialogue, with education, with understanding of what we have in common and with appreciation for the richness of our differences,” said UN Human Rights Chief, Volker Türk, in his message for the International Day.

In 2023, as we celebrate de 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Day focuses on “The urgency of combatting racism and racial discrimination, 75 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Seventy-five years ago, article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirmed the equal enjoyment for all of all human rights, without distinction of any kind, including race and colour. Yet, still today, racism, often rooted in the legacies of enslavement and colonialism, continues to affect the human rights of countless people, and its contemporary forms are present both online and offline.

No country is free of racism and everyone – States, civil society and youth - must play their role in combating it. The commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the UDHR should give States an impetus to take steps to advance equality , in law and in practice, and combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

“All too often, leaders and politicians endorse or even promote these messages of hate. Racism, and all forms of discrimination, destroy the fabric of our societies. Racism sows division and fuels inequalities, hate crime and violence. It undermines development, peace, democracy, and the rule of law. And it is an affront to human dignity,” High Commissioner Türk said. “Governments have an obligation to combat racism and racial discrimination under international human rights law, notably the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.”

Each year, the world commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March, the day the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid "pass laws" in 1960.