The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination commemorates the Sharpeville massacre — the horrific killing of 69 people peacefully demonstrating against apartheid in South Africa.
The apartheid regime was based on institutionalized racial discrimination. It was ultimately – and thankfully – consigned to history on the release from prison and accession to the presidency of Nelson Mandela, whose centennial we mark this year.
The memory of Sharpeville lives on in this annual UN observance, when we reaffirm our unequivocal rejection of all forms of racism, xenophobia and intolerance. Sadly, these attitudes persist in countries and among communities around the world.
A stark and tragic example lies in the egregious treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
It is time all nations and all people live up to the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human race. This year marks the 70th anniversary of that landmark document.
We have made considerable progress since it was adopted. People around the world have gained greater freedoms and equality. Conditions of profound economic misery and exploitation have been improved. Women’s rights have advanced, along with the rights of children, victims of racial and religious discrimination, indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities. Continue reading