Geneva, Switzerland

22 February 2021

Secretary-General's video message to Human Rights Council Panel on the Fight Against Racism and Discrimination 20 years after the Adoption of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action

Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

I welcome your focus and discussion on the fight against racism and discrimination two decades after the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action. 

As I said in my address to the Human Rights Council this morning, the rot of racism is corroding institutions, social structures and everyday life.

We must do far more to address this scourge.  I welcome the efforts of the Human Rights Council to do just that.

Racism and discrimination are the rejection of all that we stand for. 

We must, in turn, reject racism. 

We know the challenge is a complex with deep roots in centuries of colonialism and slavery. 

We also see racist or discriminatory dimensions in growing anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred, violence against some minority Christian communities and other forms of intolerance and xenophobia around the world.

And, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the strong social and economic dimension to racism and discrimination.

Fault lines often run along racial and ethnic lines.

Those already left behind are being left even further behind.


Addressing racism is not a one-time exercise.

Overcoming the challenge demands action every day, at every level.

It calls on us to assert our common values — the values of equality, non-discrimination, mutual respect — values that are deeply linked to the affirmation of human rights.

As we strive to recover from the pandemic and build a better world, it is time to forge a new social contract based on inclusivity and sustainability.  

As societies become ever more multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural, we need greater investments in inclusivity and cohesion, to harness the benefits of diversity rather than perceiving it as a threat.

All groups need to see that their individual identities are respected, while feeling that they belong as valued members of society as a whole.

Advancing equality for all also means transparency, equal access to services and meaningful participation, including for the isolated and marginalized.

It means accountability and justice with no discrimination.

And it means leaving our comfort zones and recognising and addressing our own underlying biases.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our roadmap to promoting justice and dignity for all and combatting racism in all its manifestations. 

Together, we can transform systems and institutions and build a more inclusive, equal and sustainable world.

You can count on my full commitment.

Thank you.