International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Sixty years ago, 69 peaceful protesters lost their lives in the Sharpeville Massacre while advocating for an end to the Apartheid in South Africa. We hold these upstanders, and all human rights defenders, to the fore of our minds today and throughout the Decade for People of African Descent.

The Commemorative Meeting on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has been postponed this year in light of recent guidance severely limiting the number of people attending in-person meetings in order to minimize the transmission Coronavirus and COVID-19.

However, I call on you to embody the spirit of the event throughout this difficult time; to practice tolerance and combat stigma and prejudice.

This crisis has taught us how connected we are and how the adversity of one affects all. It is clear that we need each other, now more than ever, to overcome this threat. We must work together to stop COVID-19.

The United Nations General Assembly is a body which upholds the rights of all peoples. Indeed, our strength is our diversity. The rich fabric of the United Nations is woven from our unique identities and bound by our shared vision for a better world.

Racial discrimination exacerbates inequality, poverty, social exclusion, and violent conflicts. As such the elimination of racial discrimination is a prerequisite to our work as an Organisation: to ensure peace, development and human rights for all.

As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations we must recommit to the founding ideals of our great organization. On this day, and always, we must recognise that the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all peoples of the world is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

We must recognise that tolerance of cultural, ethnic, racial and religious diversities are essential for lasting peace, understanding and friendship among peoples, nations, cultures and individuals.

On this day we must also think about the women who are affected disproportionality as they suffer from racial and gender discrimination.

We must recognise the contribution of women to the advancement of societies, and their contribution to the prevention and resolution of conflicts. It is our duty to promote and protect of the rights of all women and girls, as well as providing an enabling environment for them to realize their full potential.

On facing the death penalty, Nelson Mandela spoke from the dock at the end of the Rivonia Trial in April 1964, he said “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to see realised. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

The onus is upon each of us to eliminate racial discrimination. Today, and always, I call on you to stand up for human rights.