UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday urged the world to stand up against intolerance and build communities that recognise diversity not as a source of weakness, but a source of strength and richness.
“In a time of upheaval and change, it is easy to paint vulnerable communities as the cause of problems… people are being targeted because of their race, nationality, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation,” Guterres said at an event at the UN General Assembly commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Xinhua reported.
The event was held here against the backdrop of rising discrimination and violence against those perceived as different.
Highlighting the particular plight of migrants as well as those, especially women and girls, from minority communities who are often targeted as “scapegoats” and experience racial profiling by authorities, the secretary-general stressed the collective responsibility “to do better” and to protect human rights of all.
“We all have a role to play,” he said. “After all, racial discrimination destabilizes societies, undermines democracies and erodes the legitimacy of governments.”
“By acting together to end discrimination, we can lift humanity as a whole,” he said.
In his remarks, the secretary-general also reminded that international law requires states to take effective actions to prevent and eliminate discrimination on all grounds and in all fields of civil, economic, political, social and cultural life.
“They must be vigilant and respond immediately and appropriately, including by prohibiting incitement to racial, national and religious hatred and ending racial profiling,” he said, calling on politicians and leaders to speak up and counter hateful speech.
“Let us stand up against intolerance and eliminate discrimination,” he noted, “Let us join forces in our global campaign — Together for Respect, Safety and Dignity for all.”
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which falls on March 21, commemorates the killing of 69 unarmed protesters in 1960 in Sharpeville, South Africa, who were staging a peaceful protest against the discriminatory pass laws of the racist apartheid regime.