UN chief on Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
By Robin Gomes
The United Nations chief has called on people worldwide to think about how they can better promote tolerance, inclusion and respect for diversity.
“It is time all nations and all people live up to the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human race,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on the eve of the March 21 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Much remains to be done
In a speech to the General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, he noted that while there has been progress since the Declaration’s adoption 70 years ago – for example, in the advancement of the rights of women, children, indigenous people and persons with disabilities – there is still far to go in ending discriminatory attitudes, actions and practices.
He cited the case of the “egregious treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar,” anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred.
The 21 March International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination commemorates the 69 people killed during a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, on that day in 1960. The UN General Assembly proclaimed the international day in 1966 to increase its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.
Guterres expressed concern over issues such as gender inequality, “alarming rise” in xenophobia, racism and intolerance, and a resurgence in far-right political parties and neo-Nazi viewpoints.
Refugees and migrants, he noted, are also being denied their rights, apart from being falsely vilified as threats to the societies they seek to join.
The Secretary-General urged all to “eliminate messages of hatred – the concept of ‘us’ and ‘them’; the false attitude that we can accept some and reject and exclude others simply for how they look, where they worship or who they love.”
The UN Secy-Gen urged all to "stand up to leaders who spread their toxic vison of racial superiority — especially when they couch it in sanitized language to denigrate migrants and foreigners." He spoke abut the urgency to protect young people from these forces of intolerance and division. "We cannot allow extremist ideologies to become normalized and legitimized in our societies," Guterres added.