21 March 2017
Extract of an article by Mary Anne Neilsen
The United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed with a series of worldwide events on 21 March every year. Proclaiming the Day on 26 October 1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination (resolution 2142 (XXI)).The date of 21 March was chosen to commemorate that day in 1960 when police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid ‘pass laws’.
Since those earlier days, the UN observes there has been progress:
… 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.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was adopted on 21 December 1965 and entered into force on 4 January 1969.
2017 theme: Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration
Every year the International Day is held under one specific theme. The theme in 2017 is Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration.
Racial and ethnic profiling is defined as ‘a reliance by law enforcement, security and border control personnel on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin as a basis for subjecting persons to detailed searches, identity checks and investigations, or for determining whether an individual is engaged in criminal activity’ according to a report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism of 20 April 2015.
Refugees and migrants are particular targets of racial profiling and incitement to hatred. In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted in September 2016, United Nations Member States strongly condemned acts and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against refugees and migrants, and committed to a range of steps to counter such attitudes and behaviours, particularly regarding hate crimes, hate speech and racial violence.
Campaigns and events
The UN is promoting the following campaigns and events in relation to the International Day:
Together is a United Nations initiative to promote respect, safety and dignity for refugees and migrants. It was initiated during the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants on 19 September 2016.
Stand up for someone’s rights today is a campaign launched by the UN Human Rights Office on Human Rights Day, 10 December, 2016. It aims to: encourage, support and amplify what you do in your everyday life to defend human rights.
The Week of solidarity with the peoples struggling against racism and racial discrimination begins on 21 March each year. It was first established as part of the Programme for the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination adopted by the General Assembly in 1979 (A/RES/34/24).
To commemorate the 2017 International Day, on 17 March the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva held a debate on racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration. In New York. there will be a General Assembly plenary meeting in observance of the International Day, on 21 March 2017.
SOURCE: Neilsen, Mary Anne. “International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.” FlagPost 20 March 2017
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