'Assault on one minority community is attack on all,' Ban says on Day to eliminate racism

Three children in Akko draw together and smile for the photographer's camera. UN Photo/John Isaac

21 March 2016 – Observing the world's day set aside to bolster efforts on eliminating racial discrimination, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged increased global efforts towards that aim and declared that “an assault on one minority community is an attack on all.”

This year, the the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination highlights challenges and achievements since the adoption of the agreements at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa.

“The world has undoubtedly come a long way in ensuring equal rights and non-discrimination” in the past 15 years, the UN chief said in a message, noting that Member States have adopted new laws and safeguards, and established new institutions dedicated to promoting and protecting human rights, while civil society organizations worldwide working on racism are increasingly active and vocal.

“Yet we have not yet done enough,” he stressed, adding:“Today we are witnessing a surge of intolerance, racist views and hate-driven violence.”

He cited racial profiling and violence against certain communities as well as increased hostility towards minorities triggered by economic hardship and political opportunism. Such sentiment is being manifested most directly in anti-refugee, anti-migrant and, in particular, anti-Muslim bigotry, attacks and violence, he added.

Furthermore, extreme right-wing political parties are fomenting divisiveness and dangerous myths, and even once-centrist parties have hardened their views, he said.

In these tumultuous times, it is imperative to stand up for rights and dignity for all, and for diversity and pluralism, and speak out against anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and other forms of hate, he urged.

Warning that the collective determination that enabled the far-reaching Durban Declaration and Programme of Action is being undermined by political expediency, he urged the implementation of the framework, which “can uplift not only those who suffer most profoundly but humanity as a whole.”

In her message on the Day, Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational;, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said that racial discrimination divides and kills. It impedes peace between States and undermines social cohesion within increasingly diverse societies. Sectarian ideologists rely on hatred of the other to carry out large-scale ethnic and cultural cleansing. The historic refugee crisis serves as a pretext to foster prejudices and to foment rejection of others.

“We need more than ever to redouble efforts at the global level to build the defences against racism and intolerance in the minds of every individual and within common institutions,” she said, noting that to counter this evil, “which feeds on ignorance and a hatred of others,” UNESCO promotes global citizenship education and develops tools and expertise capable of enhancing mutual understanding, critical thinking and intercultural dialogue.

Among others she noted the agency's Slave Route Project and initiatives such as the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022) and the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024) as powerful platforms for adding depth to the dialogue to strike down racial prejudice.


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