“Racist ideology can only be combated effectively with the weapons of the mind,” says UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “Through science, firstly, which reveals the dishonesty of racist thinking and exposes its social, ideological, political and historic mainsprings. Through education, secondly, which teaches that no person is worth less than another and that diversity is an asset which we must respect. Through culture, finally, the only means by which we can replace deadly social hierarchy with a world shaped by awareness of belonging to a common humanity.” (UNESCO, 2018)

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on 21 March. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid “pass laws”. Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

Racial and ethnic discrimination occur on a daily basis, hindering progress for millions of people around the world. Racism and intolerance can take various forms — from denying individuals the basic principles of equality to fuelling ethnic hatred that may lead to genocide — all of which can destroy lives and fracture communities.

UN Guidance

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) treaty was adopted in 1965 by the United Nations. The UK became a signatory in 1966.


Key themes of the treaty:

  • Condemning racial discrimination.
  • Make a commitment to eliminating racial discrimination in all forms.
  • Guaranteeing everyone the right (regardless of colour, ethnicity, nationality, ‘race’) to equality under the law.
  • Condemn propaganda based on theories of superiority due to characteristics related to ethnicity, skin colour etc. These theories are considered to be scientifically false and socially unjust.
  • No justification for any form of racial discrimination.

Teaching and learning

The video below can be used in schools, colleges and workplaces to improve understanding of the concepts behind ICERD and to help people think about dignity and respect of everyone, regardless of features such as skin colour.

The EDI Team at BSUH NHS Trust has a range of resources available on this site to help you think about and explore issues around discrimination. Contact us, if you would like guidance or additional resources.



UN News March 2018

UN statement on the rise of racism March 2018

Rights Info – ICERD March 2018