Learning from historical tragedies is key to strengthen the global fight against racism International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – Saturday 21 March 2015

GENEVA (20 March 2015) – Speaking ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, three United Nations experts on racism have called on Governments around the world to preserve the historical memory of past atrocity crimes to make more effective the global fight against racism.

The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mutuma Ruteere; the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, Mireille Fanon Mendes-France; and the Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, José Francisco Cali Tzay, said that breaking the silence on past human rights tragedies can only be achieved through political will and education.

“This year the International Day for the elimination of racial discrimination has a particular resonance as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and commence the International Decade for People of African descent (2015-2024).

Striving for a world free of racism and racial discrimination while remembering historical tragedies and inhumane actions, related to racial or ethnic hierarchizing and discrimination, which have affected global history and caused untold suffering are inseparable parts of the fight against racism that all actors must undertake. We continue to be confronted with evidence that we are still some way from realizing the goal of universal non-discrimination, inter-ethnic harmony and unbiased justice that so many have worked to achieve.

The complex linkages between past and contemporary forms of racism must indeed be considered to prevent racial discrimination, xenophobia, afrophobia and related intolerance and banish racism in our societies. In this respect, political will and education is key in breaking the silence on past human rights tragedies.

Often history books are silent about past atrocities committed in the name of race and ethnicity, falsify or distort historic facts, spread racial prejudice, and elude the history, cultures, traditions and positive contributions of those exposed to racism and discrimination, including people of African descent, minorities, migrants, indigenous peoples and other groups.

As we commemorate this important milestone for the ICERD, we can look back and see some great successes in the fight against racism; the most significant has been the end of Apartheid in South Africa. But racism and discrimination is present today in our modern societies across the globe and in many forms. Only by recognising and learning from history can we make past successes a contemporary reality.

We call upon States, and all relevant actors to adopt and implement measures to preserve historical memory of past atrocity crimes, to promote an accurate reflection of historical facts relating to past atrocities in text books and other educational material; to implement awareness-raising initiatives and ensure trainings for teachers on racial discrimination; prescribe unbiased schoolbooks that include the positive contribution of the victims of racial discrimination, while promoting more tolerance and respect for diversity.

We urge States to fully implement the ICERD as well as the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and the Programme of Activities for the implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice and Development which constitute key instruments in the global fight against racism including past atrocities.”

Mr. Mutuma Ruteere (Kenya) was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in November 2011. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/SRRacism/Pages/IndexSRRacism.aspx
For further information and media requests, please contact:
Kellie-Shandra Ognimba (+41 22 917 92 68 / kognimba@ohchr.org)or Thierry del Prado (+41 22 917 92 32 / tdelprado@ohchr.org)

The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent was established by the then Commission on Human Rights in 2002 following the World Conference against Racism held in Durban in 2001. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Racism/WGAfricanDescent/Pages/WGEPADIndex.aspx
For further information and media requests, please contact Christina Saunders (+41 22 928 9197 / csaunders@ohchr.org) or write to africandescent@ohchr.org

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination by its State parties. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CERD/Pages/CERDIndex.aspx
For further information and media requests, please contact Gabriella Habtom (+41 22 917 9193 / ghabtom@ohchr.org) or write to cerd@ohchr.org

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