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In Focus

Take a closer look at some of the events and actions taking place across the world to highlight how we can stand up for someone’s rights. Join us and together we will make a difference.


Children pose in a camp for internally displaced people in Haiti. UN Photo/Logan Abassi

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The idea that all human being should be treated equally and free from discrimination of any kind is firmly enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since its wide acceptance by world leaders in 1948, the Declaration has spawned a number of core international human rights agreements that have serve as pledges, for the States that signed and ratified them, to uphold the human rights of the populations within their border.

The first such agreement was the International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which sprung from UN States’ desire to put an end to the abominable injustices of the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

It was also in that country that on 21 March 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, against the apartheid "pass laws." In remembrance of the victims, in 1966 the UN General Assembly proclaimed that day the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

Today we continue to stand up to racial and ethnic discrimination, a phenomenon that occurs on a daily basis, and that hinders progress for millions of people around the world.

This year’s theme for the commemoration puts at the forefront the issues of “Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration.”

How you can Stand Up

Here is how you can get involved to fight racism:

  • Share our electronic inspirational quote cards on social media that you can download here
  • Check our Let's Fight Racism! website, share an electronic postcard and tell us what you are doing to #fightracism.
  • Share our call for applications for our annual Fellowship Programme for People of African Descent is expected to be launched on 21 March. More information is available here.
  • Learn more about the International Decade for People of African Descent, which recognizes that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected. Around 200 million people in the Americas identify themselves as being of African descent while many millions more live in other parts of the world, outside of the African continent.

Every day, #FightRacism and make a difference wherever you are to break down racial prejudice and intolerant attitudes.

In New York and Geneva

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva held on 17 March 2017 a discussion to examine the roots causes of racial profiling and incitement to hatred, and current challenges in addressing these practices.

In New-York, the General Assembly will hold a plenary meeting in observance of the International Day on 21 March, at the UN headquarters from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The meeting will be webcast live at webtv.un.org.