Racial discrimination

The United Nations affirms the fundamental equality of all persons and, consequently, the phenomenon of racial discrimination has been one of its major areas of attention. The UN Charter is based on the principles of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.

Instruments to address racial discrimination

The United Nations has developed several instruments to address racial discrimination and has made important advances in the fight against racism.

In 1963, the General Assembly adopted resolution 1904 (XVIII) United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It states that discrimination between human beings on the ground of race, colour or ethnic origin is an offence to human dignity and shall be condemned as a denial of the principles of the Charter and as an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations among nations and capable of disturbing peace and security among people.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was adopted in 1965 and entered into force three years later. The State Parties to the Convention undertake to condemn all forms of racial discrimination and to review government, national and local policies and to amend or repeal laws and regulations which create or perpetuate racial discrimination. In accordance with the provisions of the Convention, a committee of experts - the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - was established to monitor its implementation.

Proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1966, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March.

Special rapporteur on racism

In 1993, the UN Commission on Human Rights created the mandate of the Special rapporteur on Contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance to investigate racial discrimination worldwide. The special rapporteur reports to the Human Rights Council.

World conference against racism

By a decision taken by the General Assembly on December 9, 1998, the year 2001 was proclaimed the International Year of mobilization against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The decision was linked to the decision to organize a world conference.

As a landmark in the struggle to eradicate all forms of racism the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Racial Intolerance was held in Durban the same year. In its resolution (A/RES/53/132) the General Assembly stated that the intention was a continued political commitment in the fight against racism and racial discrimination.

More on UN and racial discrimination


Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Ex. CERD/C/63/CO/12

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Country report, 63rd session. Concluding observations. Document no. 12

Human Rights, conventions and declaration

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Last modified: 2024-04-09