Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres' remarks to the special meeting of the General Assembly in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in New York today:
As the President of the General Assembly just referred, this day reminds us that in 1960 in Sharpeville, South Africa, 69 unarmed protestors were killed in a peaceful protest against the discriminatory pass laws of the racist apartheid regime.
I join my voice to his voice in praising South Africa’s leadership in our common struggle against racial discrimination. Yet as we scan the global landscape 57 years later, it seems that we are living in an increasingly intolerant and ever more divided world.
Discrimination and violence are rising. People are being targeted because of their race, nationality, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. Borders are being closed and the international refugee protection regime is being undermined.
In a time of upheaval and change, it is easy to paint vulnerable communities as the cause of problems.
Migrants have become convenient scapegoats, and xenophobia widespread. Women and girls of minority communities are often targeted. Many minorities are experiencing racial profiling by authorities.
Far too often, hate speech, stereotyping and stigmatization are becoming normalized. Fringe figures have moved to centre stage in many political systems. And yet despite this dark picture, there are many rays of hope.
Millions of people are speaking out against racism and intolerance. Many communities have opened their hearts and their doors to refugees and migrants — recognizing and appreciating migration as a part of the solution of our global problems.
Today is a day to pledge to build on this progress and do even more — to work even harder to close divisions, to combat intolerance and to protect human rights of all. This day is also a reminder of our common obligations.
International law requires States to take effective actions to prevent and eliminate discrimination on all grounds and in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life.
They must be vigilant and respond immediately and appropriately, including by prohibiting incitement to racial, national and religious hatred and ending racial profiling. And they must uphold the integrity of the international refugee protection regime.
Politicians and leaders must speak up and counter hateful speech. And every one of us needs to stand up for human rights.
I applaud civil society organizations around the world for reminding us that we need to do better and to do more.
We all have a role to play and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination highlights our collective responsibility. After all, racial discrimination destabilizes societies, undermines democracies and erodes the legitimacy of Governments.
By acting together to end discrimination, we can lift humanity as a whole.
As societies become multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural, we will need greater political, cultural and economic investments in inclusivity and cohesion in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
We can build communities that recognize that diversity is not a source of weakness, it is a source of strength and richness.
Let us stand up against intolerance and eliminate discrimination. Let us join forces in our global campaign — Together for Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.