Message from Ms Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO,on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 21 March 2020
“Any doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and (…) there is no justification for racial discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere.”
We are thus reminded by the preamble to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which entered into force on 4 January 1969, that any racial discrimination constitutes absolute scientific nonsense and is a profound attack on our universal and humanist values.
However, as the events of recent months have shown all too often, in particular during the COVID-19 crisis, racist ideologies, hate speech, scapegoating and the deadly acts that result from them continue to jeopardize world peace.
Combating racism is part of our commitment to human dignity. This fight for peace, as the Constitution of UNESCO reminds us, will be won first and foremost in the minds of men and women, for it is in the minds of men and women that the “intellectual and moral solidarity” of humankind must be founded.
That is why the defence of diversity, non-discrimination and the culture of peace have always been at the heart of UNESCO’s values and missions since its foundation. This ambition leads us to work jointly with States, non-governmental organizations and civil society, uniting our efforts every day for the common good.
This is the aim of the global citizenship education (GCED) programmes developed by UNESCO. Through its actions to prevent violent extremism and its initiatives to support education on the Holocaust and genocide our Organization works to educate global citizens and strengthen understanding and solidarity among peoples.
It is in this spirit that UNESCO, together with the member cities of the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities (ICCAR), is currently developing a series of innovative master classes, which will raise awareness among young people against racism to make them stakeholders committed to equality. Sessions have already been held in Paris, Caen and Brussels, and the next ones will take place in Mexico City, Quito and Kinshasa, among others. This work with the younger generations is essential because they are the ones who will determine the future of the world.
As we prepare to mark the 20th anniversary of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) held in Durban in 2021 [arranged pre-COVID-19 and RSA National Lockdown Regulations]; we must renew our commitment and strengthen our actions to combat all forms of racial discrimination.
On this International Day, UNESCO calls on everyone to mobilize for equality and dignity and to adopt the aphorism of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “Our mission (…) is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance.(…) Racism can, will, and must be defeated.”
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