Skip to main content

Countdown to Human Rights Day

The time for human rights is now!

Learn more

Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Video statement for the 2019 International Day for the elimination of racial discrimination

21 March 2019

Theme: Mitigating and countering of rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies

Statement by UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Michelle Bachelet

21 March 2019

Human equality, and the urgency of ending discrimination, are at the core of human rights. Racism is the opposite of everything we stand for.

At the United Nations and within the UN Human Rights Office, we work for an end to intolerance and xenophobia, and an end to discrimination of every kind.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. All of us can contribute to the development and well-being of society.

The International Day for the elimination of racial discrimination is the occasion for all us to renew our promise to the world's people that we will struggle – every day of every year – to end racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

Today, in many parts of the world, we are seeing the rise of movements based on ideas of racial superiority. Their bedrock is the demonization of migrants and minorities, and they thrive on a sense of crisis, besiegement and threat.

I want to emphasise that these ideas of racial, religious, ethnic or national supremacy have no basis whatsoever in reality. The hatred of other races, other religious communities or migrants does not result from experience. For example, where voters have had extensive contact with migrants, the populist vote tends to be much lower; it is high in areas where there are few actual migrants and refugees – places where they have become the subject of delusional fears.

Nationalism and racism offer no real solutions to the complex challenges societies face. They are grounded in conspiracy theories, echoing and amplifying through the blind tunnels of social media.

On the soil prepared by people's dismay in the face of a sharply changing economy, these movements sow the seeds of resentment and rage; and they harvest hatred and violence.

This nationalism is the very opposite of patriotism. It sharpens divisions, prepares violence and makes society more unsafe.

All of us need to call out and openly condemn all messages – especially political messages or discourses – which disseminate ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, or which incite racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

You can care about your country and still care about the world.

You can care about your community, and your family, and respect the diversity of others.

To promote one's own rights at the expense of others' is the highway to destruction – for all of society.

Our UN Human Rights Office will continue to take the strongest possible stand against racism, discrimination and intolerance of every kind, and I ask you to join us.

Stand up for human rights, and help us end racism.