Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, observed on 21 March:
Racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia divide peoples and nations. They are major obstacles to peace, development and the realization of human rights around the world. At the end of the twentieth century, we confront an apparent paradox. Technological advances and mass media have done much to increase international communication, knowledge and understanding. Yet, intolerance and racism continue to flourish. Migrant workers, refugees, indigenous people and ethnic, racial and religious minorities are frequent victims of discrimination. Ethnic conflicts in many nations continue to wound the world's conscience. There is also growing apprehension about racist and xenophobic propaganda being spread through new computer and electronic networks. The Internet represents a breakthrough for education, freedom of expression and global democratization. But it can also be abused, employed as a tool for promoting racism and xenophobia. This is an unprecedented challenge for the international community and individual governments. Racial discrimination is an abhorrent affront to the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter. At the World Conference on Human Rights, held in Vienna in 1993, the international community reaffirmed its commitment to a "speedy and comprehensive elimination of all forms of racism and racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance". This commitment is needed today more than ever before. That is why we should redirect and rededicate our efforts towards the total elimination of racist assaults on human equality, dignity and freedom, wherever they occur. Racial tolerance remains a global imperative. It is my sincere hope that we can shape and revitalize our social fabric in order to create a global culture of tolerance and mutual understanding. Together, we can build a common future free from the evil of racism.
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