Message from Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 21 March 2010
This day marks the 50th anniversary of a tragic moment in human civilisation, when police gunned down 69 anti-Apartheid demonstrators in the South African township of Sharpville. That massacre appalled the world. To make sure it would never be forgotten, in 1966 the United Nations designated March 21 the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The world has come a long way since the Sharpville massacre. The ignominy that was Apartheid has been consigned to history. All over the globe, legislation has been passed to outlaw racial discrimination. But, as we observe this Day, we have to remain keenly aware that the struggle to end racism is far from over. Today, our societies still have to struggle against racial hatred and discrimination.
In 2010, the Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination takes place in the broader context of the United Nations International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures. As lead agency for the Year, UNESCO is seeking to bring new impetus to the search for dialogue, tolerance and peace in our rapidly changing times. Globalisation has made the world a smaller place, bringing people together in ways that were formerly unimaginable. Yet while these dynamic processes bring positive benefits, they also generate new pressures and tensions that can lead to mistrust, resentment and hostility.
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