Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
21 March 2019
Racial discrimination still has not been banished to the history books. This vicious form of exclusion and intolerance continues to manifest itself on the sports field, in the media, on the streets, in the workplace and even in the corridors of power.
In the 50 years since the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination came into force in 1969, many of the more pernicious racial laws around the world have been eliminated, and slavery and apartheid abolished.
Unfortunately, once again, we are seeing the ugly face of racial discrimination presented in public discourse. This is why this year, the theme of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is “Mitigating and countering national populism and extreme supremacist ideology.”
Combatting racism is a question of human dignity and building a fairer world. It has always been at the heart of UNESCO’s mandate promoting diversity, inclusion, nondiscrimination and a culture of peace and solidarity.
The internet can be fertile ground for the spread of racial discrimination, xenophobia and supremacist ideologies, often targeting migrants and refugee, as well as people of African descent. UNESCO – as the UN agency responsible for communication and information – develops tools for Media and Information Literacy to combat such attitudes online and tackle the spread of “fake news”.
Ensuring a safe online space is part of broader Global Citizenship Education that aims to develop competencies to enhance mutual understanding, critical thinking and intercultural dialogue. Our educational projects on the Holocaust and the Slave Route – which were underpinned by false the pseudo-science of racial superiority – contribute to our understanding of these appalling chapters of our human story.
On a daily basis, racial discrimination continues to silently deprive people of their basic rights to employment, housing and a social life embodied through iniquitous laws. Through UNESCO’s International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities (ICCAR), we support Member States in developing urban policies to tackle modern-day exclusion.
In addition, this year, as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, we are putting the spotlight on the structural racism that deprive certain ethnic groups of their rights to fully use their native tongue: whether it be in the classroom, the cultural sphere or in decision-making processes.
The fight against discrimination is one we must all lead. On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, let us all stand together as Member States, civil society organizations and citizens to eliminate racial discrimination, and build more sustainable societies.