SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS DAY FOR ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION CELEBRATES STEPS WORLD HAS TAKEN TO FREE ITSELF FROM RACIAL HATRED
NEW YORK, 12 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is observed on 21 March:
Today, we observe the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It is a day to celebrate the many steps the world has taken to free itself from racial hatred, but also a day to reflect on the challenges that remain, and to renew our commitment to overcoming them.
This day was fixed on 21 March to commemorate the massacre at Sharpeville, South Africa, where police shot and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid "pass laws" in 1960. We must all rejoice that apartheid is now a thing of the past. This year, delegates from all over the world will assemble in a free South Africa for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to address the various forms of racism that continue to plague our world.
These forms of intolerance are often less visible than apartheid, but no less insidious. Throughout the world, refugees, indigenous peoples, and asylum seekers still suffer the indignities of racial discrimination. Ethnic minorities continue to be disproportionately poor, disproportionately affected by unemployment, and disproportionately less educated than dominant groups.They are under-represented in political structures, while over-represented in prisons. They have less access to quality health care and, thus, a shorter life expectancy.
These and other forms of racial injustice are the grim realities of our time, but they need not be the inevitabilities of our future. Let us all join in working to make the World Conference a success, in the hope that we may one day celebrate 2001 as the year that marked the beginning of the end of racial discrimination.
* *** *