Press Releases

    UNIS/RD/1
    18 March 2004

    New Ways Needed to Address the Age-old Problem of Racism

    21 March to Be Commemorated as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

    VIENNA, 18 March (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations will observe the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March. In a statement, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said “although the principle of non-discrimination has been established as one of the foundations of international law, the persistence of racism racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, demonstrates the need to look for new ways to address this age-old problem”.

    The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination comes soon after the 64th session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded its session in Geneva on 12 March 2004. The Committee hoped that the United Nations would focus its effort on making the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination universal through the accession of all its member States. On its part, the Committee will continue to work towards the universal implementation of the Convention.

    Although the Convention is signed and ratified by 128 states and has been in force since 1969, racial discrimination, nevertheless, remains a widespread problem in many countries worldwide.

    The United Nations decided to take action against racial discrimination after an incident in South Africa on 21 March 1960, when 69 people were killed by the police when they peacefully demonstrated against the “pass laws”. The General Assembly then adopted the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and in 1966, declared 21 March the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Among other things, states pledged to make sure that no racial discrimination against individuals, groups or institutions occurs, not to sponsor or defend racial discrimination by persons or individuals, to review government, national and local policies, and law or regulation which perpetuate racial discrimination.

    The Convention is the oldest and most widely ratified United Nations human rights convention. This day is also celebrated as Human Rights Day in South Africa, as it stands for the 10th anniversary of freedom and the end of Apartheid.

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