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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Discrimination negates contribution of whole parts of society and could sow seeds of violent conflict, High Commissioner for Human Rights says

20 March 2007

20 March 2007


Message of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour on the Occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Forty seven years after the massacre of dozens of peaceful demonstrators in Sharpeville, South Africa, the world comes together to remember, once again, the worst excesses of a brutal racist regime, and to take stock of the ravages that racial discrimination continues to inflict everywhere.

Racial discrimination is wrong and harmful in itself. It is a denial of human rights, an affront to human dignity and a direct assault on the foundation of the human rights edifice – the principle of equality. Discrimination and bias also have a direct impact on a society’s development. A society that tolerates discrimination holds itself back, foregoing the contribution of whole parts of its population, and potentially sowing the seeds of violent conflict.

An overwhelming majority of States has accepted the legal obligation to fight racial discrimination. But a reality check demonstrates that formal commitments are not enough. This International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is the occasion to mobilize public opinion, as well as to remind governments of their duty to combat racial discrimination in all its forms and thereby help ensure the full development of all members of our communities now and for generations to come.