21 March 2019
The UN General Assembly resolution 2142 (XXI) (link is external), adopted on 26 October 1966, proclaimed 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to be commemorated annually. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid "pass laws". Proclaiming the Day in 1966 which signifies the struggle to end the policy of apartheid in South Africa, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.Over the years, UNESCO has celebrated the International Day by organizing events in Headquarters and its field offices, as well as in cooperation with the member cities of the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities – ICCAR (formerly the International Coalition of Cities against Racism).
The struggle against racial discrimination is a central element of UNESCO's work to build peace in the minds of men and women, through education for tolerance, the rejection of racist stereotypes that may persist in culture or in the media.
Racial discrimination still has not been banished to the history books. This vicious form of exclusion and intolerance continues to manifest itself on the sports field, in the media, on the streets, in the workplace and even in the corridors of power. In the fifty years since the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination came into force in 1969, many of the more pernicious racial laws around the world have been eliminated, and slavery and apartheid abolished. Unfortunately, once again, we are seeing the ugly face of racial discrimination presented in public discourse. This is why this year, the theme of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is “Mitigating and countering national populism and extreme supremacist ideology.— Audrey Azoulay Director-General, on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination