Note No 122
6 February 2001

"Empowering Youth to Fight Racism"

A Proposal for a Special Event on 21 March 2001
With the United Nations

NEW YORK, 5 February (UN Headquarters) -- The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed globally by the United Nations on 21 March. This year’s Day will be used to bring attention to the World Conference against Racism to be held by the United Nations in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September 2001.

Global observances being organized by United Nations offices around the world on 21 March will focus on "best practices" in youth-oriented media by showcasing innovative ways television, the Internet and other entertainment media target young people with programmes that foster tolerance.

In New York, a special event will be held at United Nations Headquarters with an audience of 400-500 young people (high school age) from different cultures and backgrounds. Segments of the event could be video-linked to/from similar UN events being held in other centers such as South Africa (with South African Broadcasting), Brazil (with Globo TV), UK, France, India and Switzerland (the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva). Pre-recorded video clips of programmes from national broadcasters in these countries and/or international broadcasters would intersperse presentations by panelists (some by video-link) who would briefly explain their purpose and impact. A pre-recorded segment by comedians who use humor on television to explore racial issues, and/or cameos by other media celebrities, is also being explored. A discussion about the responsibility of Internet hosts for "hate sites" could include representatives from both the user and provider perspectives, as well as a presentation about initiatives being taken to limit the impact of these sites. The whole event (duration approximately one hour, from 10am – 11am) would be live web cast on the UN web site (other sites would be encouraged to link to this) and televised by the United Nations. Broadcast and other media will be encouraged to cover it.

The event would be moderated by a television personality who would interact with the audience encouraging a discussion of how young people relate to the issues raised and what they can do to fight racism.

The United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI), which is organizing the event, has invited MTV and it’s worldwide affiliates to collaborate on this project. DPI would like MTV to help format the special event in a way that would appeal to young people, to provide examples of its innovative programming against racism and to explore ways that it’s global outreach could be used to promote the World Conference against Racism and its goals.

MTV has an established record in creating innovative programming to raise awareness in young people about human rights issues. In addition, MTV is already working with the UN to promote various UN activities, including the forthcoming General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS.

In exploratory discussions, MTV offered the possibility of providing the moderator (Ananda) for the event in New York as well as showcasing some new TV PSAs on racism. If ready in time, the MTV "Guide to young people against discrimination" could be launched at the event. Also raised was the possibility of a link from the MTV web site "Fight for your rights" to the UN web site for the World Conference (, as well as to the live web cast of the special event on 21 March.

DPI also invited MTV to explore ways to involve its international audience, perhaps by MTV affiliates participating in 21 March events in other countries and/or by raising awareness locally about the World Conference against Racism.

MTV is proposing to hold an international competition with young people on what they think their government should do to fight AIDS. The suggestions will be videotaped and made into TV PSAs for the UN as well as a short video to play at the start of the UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS. Winners of the competition will be brought to participate in a special event at the UN during the conference.

Similarly, at the same time they are holding the competition on AIDs, MTV could ask young people what they think should be done to fight racism and promote tolerance and diversity. These suggestions could be used by the UN and MTV to promote the World Conference against Racism in a variety of ways as well as being developed into a short video that could be shown in South Africa at the Conference.


21 March was designated in 1966 by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The day was selected in commemoration of 21 March 1960, when police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 peaceful protestors against the "pass laws" enacted by the apartheid regime.

The General Assembly also proclaimed 2001 as the International Year of Mobilization against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Observance of the Year is to help draw world attention to the objectives of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance to be held later this year, and to provide a momentum for further political commitment to the elimination of racism and racial discrimination.

* * * * *