International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: Stand Up for Someone’s Rights Today

Racial and ethnic discrimination occur on a daily basis, hindering progress for millions of people around the world. Racism and intolerance can take various forms — from denying individuals the basic principles of equality to fuelling ethnic hatred that may lead to genocide — all of which can destroy lives and fracture communities. The struggle against racism is a matter of priority for many individual and organisations around the world.

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There, world leaders adopted by consensus a political declaration proclaiming their “strong determination to make the fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and the protection of the victims thereof, a high priority for [their] countries.” Since the apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled. Racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries, and an international framework was built for fighting racism, guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“Politics of division and the rhetoric of intolerance are targeting racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities, and migrants and refugees. Words of fear and loathing can, and do, have real consequences,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said.

He urged Governments to adopt legislation expressly prohibiting racist hate speech, including the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, and threats or incitement to violence.

“It is not an attack on free speech or the silencing of controversial ideas or criticism, but a recognition that the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities,” Mr. Zeid said.

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