International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: History

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on March 21st.

On that day in 1960, police shot and killed 69 people (including eight women and ten children) and injured 180 at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa. More than 80% of those killed had been shot in the back.

7,000 individuals had gathered to rally against apartheid and its “pass laws,” which required all Africans to carry a Pass Book, enabling the South African government to restrict and monitor their whereabouts. Anyone found without a passbook could be arrested and detained for up to thirty days.

The Sharpeville Massacre led the General Assembly of the United Nations to proclaim March 21 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and call on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

( See UN Resolution 2142 (XXI) )

It Takes a Globe

Every year, the international community commemorates that tragedy, but also joins together to combat racism and discrimination.

In 1989, Canada was the first country in the world to hold a national March 21 campaign. A Canadian website celebrates the day and sponsors annual events.

This year, the Social and Human Sciences Sector is organizing a series of activities at UNESCO in Paris.

A few organizations are working on an international scale to provide support and an ongoing backdrop for the mission of this day.


UNESCO leads a global quest for tolerance and a fight against racism, discrimination and xenophobia – which their website states, is at the heart of UNESCO’s mandate.

Their research contributes to the identification of effective responses to obstacles limiting human rights, such as extreme nationalism, ideologies of intolerance, and new forms of discrimination arising from technological and scientific progress.

In order to respond to the challenges emerging in modern societies, UNESCO has adopted a new Integrated Strategy to Combat Racism, Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance. Priorities include: scientific research on the phenomena of racism, discrimination and xenophobia; development of new educational approaches and teaching materials; mobilization of opinion leaders and political decision-makers against racism and discrimination; preservation of diversity in multi-ethnic and multicultural societies; and combating racist propaganda in media, particularly in cyberspace which has been identified as the primary source of hate group expansion.

The UN Sponsors a Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties.

It meets in Geneva and normally holds two sessions per year consisting of three weeks each. It also publishes its interpretation of the content of human rights provisions, known as general recommendations (or general comments), on thematic issues and organizes thematic discussions. For more information about the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, visit their website.

You Too Can Share a Positive Message

Given the recent surge in hate group activity on a global scale, it is important that we take time this year to honor this day.

Hate groups have attempted in recent years to hijack this day by collaborating in a dissemination of pro-white/anti-tolerance messages. This year again, several sites are advocating that individuals and organizations fly flags and wear apparel displaying anti-tolerance messages on March 21 to celebrate World White Pride instead.

You can help to drown these messages and make voices for unity louder by sharing the UN slogan which is “United to Combat Racism: Equality, Dignity, Justice.”

Send colorful Anti-Racism Day E-Cards to friends and colleagues for free courtesy of, the largest Online Network for people who Care2 make a difference in the environment, human rights, education, healthy living, women’s rights, animal welfare, and much more.



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  1. Hello Ann,

    I just discovered a comment that you made on my blog on Feb 5th. Your thoughts were incredibly insightful, and I wish that I had seen them then!

    I love this blog, and will begin subscribing today.

    Thank you for the tremendous work that you are doing.

  2. GBM

    Thank you for your insights and great international resources on racial justice.


  3. A wonderful site, to read

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