For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No:   UNIS/SG/2523
Release Date:   20 March 2000
With Perseverance, Faith, Commitment, Racism Can Be Eliminated,
Says Secretary-General in Message on International Day

 Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which is observed 21 March:

 Today, we mark this century’s first International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  It is a moment to look forward, and to reflect on the kind of society we want our children to live in.  The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be held in South Africa in 2001, will provide a historic opportunity to move closer to a more just and more tolerant society for all.

 The Conference will be action-oriented, and will focus on practical measures to assist victims of racial discrimination.  The reason is clear.  As long as people are denied opportunities for employment, education and health because of their race or ethnic background, we have work to do.  As long as people of particular races or ethnic backgrounds find themselves disproportionately represented in the prison population, in the ranks of the socially and culturally excluded, and in the slums and favelas of the world’s great conurbations, we have work to do.  As long as they are disproportionately victims of health problems such as AIDS, and do not have equal access to medical care and treatment, we have work to do.  And as long as ethnic conflict and genocide continues, we cannot rest.

 Our age, like previous ages, has brought with it new forms of racial discrimination, no less odious than the old ones.  Many of today's conflicts have an ethnic dimension.  Increasingly, civilian populations are targeted, purely because of their ethnic identity.  And with the increase in global migration comes a corresponding increase in discrimination against immigrants, migrant workers, refugees, asylum-seekers and displaced persons.

 As we recognize the enormous challenges before us, let us also note the advantages we have.  The international community is committed as never before to ending racism.  International and regional texts ban racial discrimination.  Many States have anti-discrimination laws, with national human rights institutions to implement those laws and provide assistance to victims.  Tolerance and multiculturalism are flourishing in many societies.  New technologies offer opportunities and services at a lower cost than before, and can, if applied fairly, be tools of ending and not aggravating inequality.

 Eliminating racism and overcoming obstacles to equality will not be easy, but with perseverance, faith and commitment, it can be done.  Next year's World Conference should mark a big step forward.  Let us seize this opportunity and make the most of it.

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