21 March 1996

Press Release


Following is the text of the message of Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is observed on 21 March:

On this anniversary, the international community is gathering together to honour the memory of the victims of racism and racial discrimination, ask why these phenomena continue and seek means capable of putting an end to their manifestations.

The Sharpeville massacre in 1960, under the now overthrown apartheid regime, in South Africa, may seem to us to be very far off. But this commemoration awakens us to the resurgence of racist ideologies and practices, particularly in the economic and social spheres, to the persistence of the subtle forms of racism and racial discrimination that assume the shapes of nationalism or of national or continental preference. It reminds us that our world, full as it is of information on the different peoples inhabiting it, is not free from xenophobia, hatred and ethnic conflict.

On the five continents, migrant workers, asylum seekers, ethnic, national and religious minorities and indigenous populations are every day faced with discriminatory practices and exposed to racist violence. Freedom of movement between different countries is increasingly being subjected to restrictive measures, some of which seem to be inspired by racist and xenophobic considerations.

In proclaiming, in December 1993, the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination, lasting until 2003, the General Assembly urged all governments, the specialized agencies and intergovernmental and non- governmental organizations to redouble their efforts to put an end to racism and racial discrimination. In this context, the adoption of stringent legislation against the activities of extremist organizations and against all racist propaganda is urgent. But just as much as punishment, education of individuals in a better acceptance of others and the development of a culture of tolerance and solidarity are essential.

- 2 - Press Release SG/SM/5930 RD/871 21 March 1996

At the international level, the United Nations has established various mechanisms and institutions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Commission on Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related phenomena, which are continuing to work for the full application in all latitudes of article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to the effect that "all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights".

On the eve of the twenty-first century, the political will to eliminate racism and racial discrimination must be stronger and more demanding. This is why human beings and their rights must be placed at the centre of the concerns of all States and all peoples. In this way, I am convinced, we shall succeed in preparing for succeeding generations a world of equality, tolerance and active solidarity.

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