Press Releases

UNIS/SGSM/99
17 March 2009

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

"Too Many Individuals, Communities and Societies Suffer from the Injustice and Stigma that Racism Brings"

Message on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 21 March 2009

VIENNA, 21 March (UN Information Service) - On this day in 1960, 69 peaceful protestors were gunned down by police in the South African township of Sharpeville as they demonstrated peacefully against the apartheid "pass laws". Many more - including women and children - were wounded. A wave of revulsion washed round the world. By proclaiming 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the General Assembly wished to honour the memory those who were massacred and to condemn racism.

Since then, the apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled. Racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries, and we have built an international framework for fighting racism, guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The Convention is now nearing universal ratification, yet still, in all regions, too many individuals, communities and societies suffer from the injustice and stigma that racism brings.

Next month, government and civil society representatives will meet in Geneva to review progress since the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, in Durban. In the years since, the world has witnessed a disturbing rise in reports of hatred and bigotry, linked in part to terrorism and increasing migration. The Review Conference is a timely opportunity for countries to share experiences, identify best practices and reaffirm their commitment to the battle against racism. Racism exists in all countries, and I urge all countries to work together in the struggle against it.

The first article of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights affirms that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights." The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reminds us of our collective responsibility for promoting and protecting this ideal. Together, we must strengthen our common endeavour to put an end to racial discrimination and xenophobia wherever it occurs.

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