Racism, Just Another Atrocious Weapon of Fear and Hatred
“Racism and racial discrimination have been used as weapons to engender fear and hatred. In extreme cases, ruthless leaders instigate prejudice to incite genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity”. With these words, UN secretary general marked this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which focuses on the theme of racism and conflict.
On 21 March each year, the UN marks the day in 1960 when dozens of peaceful protesters were gunned down by police in the South African township of Sharpeville as they demonstrated against apartheid. “Racism undermines peace, security, justice and social progress,” Ban Ki-moon added. “It is a violation of human rights that tears at individuals and rips apart the social fabric.”
**Real Risk of Explosive Conflicts**
For her part, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay cited a survey which stated that 55 per cent of violent conflicts between 2007 and 2009 had violations of minority rights or ethnic tensions at their core. The relationship between racism and conflict was “a deep-rooted, well-established one,” she cautioned.
“Leaving the dangerous societal problems of prejudice and racism to simmer on the back burner creates a real risk of explosive conflicts erupting, years or decades later,” Pillay stated.
“Racism and prejudice can provide, propel, and perpetuate the narratives that create and sustain conflict – whether in the developed or developing world.”
Two UN experts in the fields of racism and minority issues have issued their own statement, stressing the need for greater attention to prevention and early action in response to the first warning signs of tensions caused by racism and discrimination that may lead to violence and conflict situation with serious violations of human rights, the UN reported.
**Negative Stereotypes; Hate Speech by Public Officials and the Media**
“All relevant actors should pay attention to early warning signs, including the marginalization and social exclusion of specific groups of individuals; discriminatory legislation and policies; the persistence of racial prejudice and negative stereotypes; hate speech by public officials and the media; and violent attacks and harassment targeting ethnic groups,” said Mutuma Ruteere, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Ruteere and Rita Izsák, the UN Independent Expert on minority issues, drew attention to the important role of non-State actors, including civil society, the media, national human rights institutions, and political parties, who can serve as “watchdogs” for discriminatory government policies and play an important role in the promotion of tolerance, mutual understanding and respect for diversity.
**Transatlantic Slave Trade Over Four Centuries**
In addition to a new website, this year’s drive to eliminate racism has also moved to the world of social networking, where the Organization has established a Facebook campaign with pages in English, French and Spanish and is encouraging followers to tweet their support against the scourge of intolerance.
On 25 March last year, the United Nations capped off a week of activities to honour the memory of the millions of innocent victims who suffered over four centuries due to the transatlantic slave trade, focusing on the legacy of those enslaved and their contributions to the societies in which they lived.
**Modern Slavery – Debt Bondage, Domestic Servitude, Forced Marriages, Trafficking…**
“The living legacy of 30 million untold stories” is the theme of 2011 International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which is observed annually on 25 March.
That Day, Ban addressed a special commemorative meeting of the UN General Assembly to mark the Day, at which he said the challenge today is to remember slavery then, and continue the fight against its “contemporary versions now, including debt bondage, domestic servitude, forced marriages and trafficking in children.”
“But in those who opposed slavery then and now, we also celebrate people at their best: the brave slaves who rose up despite mortal risk; the abolitionists who challenged the status quo; the activists today who fight intolerance and injustice,” he stated.
2011 was declared the International Year for People of African Descent.
2012 [Human Wrongs Watch](http://human-wrongs-watch.net/)