"I call on all people, especially political, civic and religious leaders, to strongly condemn messages and ideas based on racism, racial superiority or hatred as well as those that incite racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on the 21st March to commemorate the day in 1960 where police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa. The official day was proclaimed six years later by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in a call to the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.
The 21st of March this year, marks the first celebration of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination since the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela. President Mandela’s legacy is particularly relevant to the 21st March celebrations due to his historic struggle against apartheid and the victory over racist forces in South Africa.
This year the UN has decided to honour the courageous struggle of an extraordinary leader in the fight against racism and chosen “The Role of Leaders in Combatting Racism and Racial Discrimination” as the 2014 theme for International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The theme this year is meant to highlight the key role that leaders can play in mobilising political will to combat racism and racial discrimination. The view is that political leaders and political parties, in particular, can and ought to play a distinct role in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. With decades of countless policy and framework developments to combat racism, but little improvements, it is becoming apparent that renewed and strong leadership and actions are necessary to eliminate racism.
CRER has taken a similar view in celebrating this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by focussing its annual symposium, in honour of the day, on positive action in race equality, in particular gaps in employment. CRER recognises that despite almost four decades of race equality legislation, minority ethnic communities are still experiencing substantial employment gaps. Positive action could help to address these gaps and CRER wants to know if organisations in Scotland are making the most of the positive action powers they have.
What the celebrations around the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as well as the CRER Symposium, will hopefully highlight is that advancements in race equality do not just come down to strong leadership but also to individuals who believe in a cause and are willing to make a change. Nelson Mandela’s journey was one from prisoner to President. One person’s determination to overcome the injustice of racial discrimination sent ripples across a country and in time led to the end of apartheid. Proving that one person can lead an entire nation to change.
CRER invites you to celebrate International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination with us and the rest of the world and raise your voice against racial discrimination. Everyone has the capacity to be a leader and challenging racism starts with you.