International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UN): March 21, 2019

March 18, 2019 | Liana

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March 21 is a day designated by the United Nations (UN) as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established in 1966, six years after an event known as the Sharpeville tragedy or Sharpeville massacre. Police opened fire, killing 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa on March 21, 1960.

Apartheid - A Crime Against Humanity (March 1985)  courtesy United Nations.
Apartheid - A Crime Against Humanity (March 1985). Photo courtesy of United Nations, on a Creative Commons license.


The United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed with a series of events and activities worldwide on March 21 each year. Previous activities included a webcast from the UN headquarters on March 21 featuring special appearances of UN leaders. Other activities included walks, demonstrations, essays, webcasts, photo projects, and much more promoting awareness and the fight against racial discrimination.

Young people also have the option of sharing their opinions and thoughts on human rights and racial discrimination at Voices of Youth, an online bulletin board for young people. Contributors to Voices of Youth come from different parts of the world including Jamaica, Kazakhstan, and the Philippines.

Racial and ethnic discrimination occur everywhere in various forms. They hinder progress for millions of people around the world, destroy lives, and fracture communities.

The UN General Assembly called on the international community to increase its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination when it proclaimed the day as a UN Day of observance in 1966 (resolution 2142 (XXI)). They also called on all world states and organizations to participate in a program of action to combat racism and racial discrimination in 1983. UN held the World Conference against Racism and Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in 2001 and produced the most authoritative and comprehensive program for combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance: the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (PDF).

Further Reading

Interested in finding out more? Here are some items from our collection on racial discrimination and the elimination of racial discrimination. A few titles are highlighted below. Some of these books are only available at the Toronto Reference Library and cannot be borrowed.

Race on the brain -what implicit bias gets wrong about the struggle for racial justice   International action against racial discrimination


The color of mind - why the origins of the achievement gap matter for justice   The color of law - a forgotten history of how our government segregated America

Multicultural psychology    Multicultural law enforcement - strategies for peacekeeping in a diverse society