What is the UN doing to combat racism and racial discrimination?
Last Updated: Jun 17, 2020
Article 1(3) of the UN Charter states that one of the purposes of the United Nations is
"To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion"
Throughout its history, the United Nations has worked for human rights and for the eradication of racism and racial discrimination around the world.
Following the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination was the first of the major international agreements on human rights adopted by the UN General Assembly: it was adopted in 1965 and entered into force in 1969. Its implementation is monitored by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
- Drafting history from the Audiovisual Library of International Law
- Status of treaty from the UN Treaty Collection
- Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
In addition to the ongoing work of CERD, Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council also monitor this topic, including in particular:
- Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance
- Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent
- History of Special Procedures on Racial Discrimination from the Human Rights Special Procedures research guide
Over time, the UN has also held conferences dedicated to the topic:
- 1978: World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Geneva, 14-25 August 1978, report: A/CONF.92/40 (79.XIV.2)
- 1983: World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Geneva, 1-12 Aug. 1983, report: A/CONF.119/26 (83.XIV.4)
- 2001: 3rd World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban, 31 Aug.-8 Sept. 2001, report: A/CONF.189/12
In addition to conferences, certain observances have been named, including:
- 21 March: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
- 25 March: International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
- 18 July: Nelson Mandela International Day
- 23 August: UNESCO International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition
- Week: resolution establishing week
- 21-27 March: Week of Solidarity with the Peoples Struggling against Racism and Racial Discrimination A/RES/34/24
- Years: resolution establishing year
- 1971: International Year for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination: A/RES/2544 (XXIV)
- 1978/79: International Anti-Apartheid Year: A/RES/32/105 B
- 2001: International Year of Mobilization against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance: A/RES/53/132
- 2004: International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition: A/RES/57/195
- 2011: International Year for People of African Descent: A/RES/64/169
- Decades: resolution establishing decade
- 1973-1982: 1st Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination: A/RES/3057 (XXVIII)
- 1983-1993: 2nd Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination: A/RES/38/14
- 1993-2003: 3rd Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination: A/RES/48/91
- 2015-2024: International Decade for People of African Descent: A/RES/68/237
Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance are complex topics that intersect with many other issues on the UN agenda. Additional related information can be found in the following sources:
Disclaimer: answers are prepared by library staff using resources available at the time of writing. This site may include links and references to third-party databases, websites, books and articles, this does not imply endorsement by the United Nations.