New York

21 December 2015

Secretary-General's message to mark the 50th Anniversary of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Fifty years ago today, the Member States of the United Nations adopted the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) to move us closer to a world free from bigotry and hatred.

Over the past half century, the civil rights movement in the United States, the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa and the end of colonialism have significantly advanced the world towards full equality.  Thanks to ICERD, many countries have approved legislation and policies to combat racial discrimination and provide remedies to victims across the world.

Yet threats to non-discrimination and equality persist.  In an interconnected world with changing national demographics, the risks of xenophobia and racism are forever present. Politicians and media often exacerbate this threat by preying on fear and ignorance.  We see this most prominently today with the intolerance directed at many refugees, migrants and minority communities.

Racial discrimination takes many different forms.  No region is immune.  ICERD therefore remains as relevant as ever.  Whenever we are confronted with behaviour that challenges the inherent equality of all human beings, ICERD provides the guideposts to keep us on the road of unity through diversity.

On this momentous anniversary, I call on all Member States to recommit to the aims of ICERD, clearly speak out against racism and xenophobia, do more to address the root causes of racial inequality, and take concrete steps to eliminate the poison of prejudice.