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Eliminating racism: time for change

The death of George Floyd in May 2020 galvanized people worldwide to protest racism and discrimination and prompted global discussions on racial justice, including at the United Nations, which has advocated for human rights and racial equality since its inception. It adopted the Convention on eliminating racial discrimination in 1965, played a role in ending apartheid in South Africa in 1994 and annually commemorates the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. A permanent memorial, “the Ark of No Return”, stands at UN headquarters in New York as a reminder that the legacies of slavery still affect us. Consequently, the June 2020 adoption by the Human Rights Council of resolution 43/1 in response to Mr. Floyd’s death and subsequent UN initiatives, demonstrate the Organization’s ongoing commitment to combat racism.

In March 2021, observing the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that “Racism is a deeply rooted global evil. It transcends generations and contaminates societies.” He called on youth, who have been at the forefront of global protests against racism, as well as educators and leaders, “to teach the world that all people are born equal”.

In June 2021, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released her agenda towards transformative change for racial justice and equality and presented it to the Council’s 47th session. Watch this video describing the actions and various approaches needed to dismantle systemic racism.

“My daddy changed the world!” The words of George Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter, Gianna, inspired many to join the fight against racism, exemplifying the value of empowering women and girls and ensuring their voices are heard. Youth participation is also critical. Join the movement! Register for the virtual event, Durban+20: Reflections on Youth and Racism Twenty Years Later, Friday, 30 July 2021, which will discuss challenges facing young people and how they can be agents of change.

For more opportunities to participate, visit #FightRacism to take action to tackle hate speech, create awareness of all forms of racial discrimination and empathy about how it affects individuals or empower communities to identify, prevent and reduce discrimination. Also follow #FightRacism on Twitter.

Did you know?

People of African descent face obstacles in gaining equal access to quality education and health care. Long-standing structural inequalities in the area of health have been further aggravated by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. For more information see OHCHR topics in focus.