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International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed with a series of events and activities worldwide on March 21 each year. The day aims to remind people of racial discrimination’s negative consequences. It also encourages people to remember their obligation and determination to combat racial discrimination.

The International Day to Eliminate Racial Discrimination is a chance for people voice opinions promote equality across backgrounds and cultures.

©iStockphoto.com/skynesher

What Do People Do?

Various activities and events are arranged in many countries worldwide on this day. Previous activities included a webcast from the UN headquarters on March 21 featuring special appearances of UN leaders. Such events aim to help young people voice their opinions, find ways to fight racism, and promote tolerance in their communities and in their lives.

Young people also have the option of posting their opinions regarding discussions on human rights and racial discrimination at Voices of Youth, which is UNICEF’s online bulletin board for young people. Contributors to Voices of Youth come from different parts of the world including Jamaica, Kazakhstan, and the Philippines.  Other activities include essays, photo projects, and published articles that promote the fight against racial discrimination.

Public Life

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is not a public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Background

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established six years after an event, known as the Sharpeville tragedy or Sharpeville massacre, which captured worldwide attention. This event involved police opening fire and killing 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa, March 21, 1960.

The UN General Assembly called on the international community to increase its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination when it proclaimed the day as a UN Day of observance in 1966. It also called on all world states and organizations to participate in a program of action to combat racism and racial discrimination in 1983. It held the World Conference against Racism and Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in 2001. The UN continues its work to fight against all forms of racial intolerance.

Symbols

The UN logo is often associated with marketing and promotional material for this event. It features a projection of a world map (less Antarctica) centered on the North Pole, inscribed in a wreath consisting of crossed conventionalized branches of the olive tree. The olive branches symbolize peace and the world map depicts the area of concern to the UN in achieving its main purpose, peace and security. The projection of the map extends to 60 degrees south latitude, and includes five concentric circles.

World Day to Eliminate Racial Discrimination Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2015SatMar 21World Day to Eliminate Racial DiscriminationUnited Nations observance
2016MonMar 21World Day to Eliminate Racial DiscriminationUnited Nations observance
2017TueMar 21World Day to Eliminate Racial DiscriminationUnited Nations observance
2018WedMar 21World Day to Eliminate Racial DiscriminationUnited Nations observance
2019ThuMar 21World Day to Eliminate Racial DiscriminationUnited Nations observance
2020SatMar 21World Day to Eliminate Racial DiscriminationUnited Nations observance
2021SunMar 21World Day to Eliminate Racial DiscriminationUnited Nations observance
2022MonMar 21World Day to Eliminate Racial DiscriminationUnited Nations observance
2023TueMar 21World Day to Eliminate Racial DiscriminationUnited Nations observance
2024ThuMar 21World Day to Eliminate Racial DiscriminationUnited Nations observance
2025FriMar 21World Day to Eliminate Racial DiscriminationUnited Nations observance

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