Secretary-General’s Message on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Secretary-General’s Message on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

In the 15 years since the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa, the world has undoubtedly come a long way in ensuring equal rights and non-discrimination.  Member States have adopted new laws and safeguards, and established new institutions dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights.  Civil society organizations worldwide working on racism are increasingly active and vocal.

Yet we have not yet done enough.  Today we are witnessing a surge of intolerance, racist views and hate-driven violence. Racial profiling and violence against certain communities is on the rise.  Economic hardship and political opportunism are triggering increased hostility towards minorities; this is being manifested most directly in anti-refugee, anti-migrant and, in particular, anti-Muslim bigotry, attacks and violence.

Extreme right-wing political parties are fomenting divisiveness and dangerous myths.  Even once-centrist parties have hardened their views; once-moderate countries are seeing xenophobia rise sharply; and once-sober voices have exploited fears in a dangerous echo of the darkest chapters of the last century.

All of this increases the risk of societal fracture, instability and conflict.  In these tumultuous times, we must stand up for rights and dignity for all, and for diversity and pluralism.  We must speak out against anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and other forms of hate.  An assault on one minority community is an attack on all.  

The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action remains the most comprehensive framework for international, regional and national actions against racism.  Yet I am concerned that the collective determination that enabled such a far-reaching agreement is being undermined by political expediency. 

The international community acknowledged in Durban that no country could claim to be free of racism. This remains the case today.  We must keep foremost in our minds the countless victims of racial discrimination.  By implementing the Durban agreements, we can uplift not only those who suffer most profoundly but humanity as a whole.  Let us unite to ensure dignity, justice and development for all.  

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