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Building peace in the minds of men and women

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

21 March

The UN General Assembly resolution 2142 (XXI), adopted on 26 October 1966, proclaimed 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to be commemorated annually. 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 which signifies the struggle to end the policy of apartheid in South Africa, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

Over the years, UNESCO has celebrated the International Day by organizing events in Headquarters and its field offices, as well as in cooperation with the member cities of the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities – ICCAR (formerly the International Coalition of Cities against Racism).

The struggle against racial discrimination is a central element of UNESCO's work to build peace in the minds of men and women, through education for tolerance, the rejection of racist stereotypes that may persist in culture or in the media.


"On this International Day, UNESCO calls on everyone to mobilize for equality and dignity and to adopt the aphorism of former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan: “Our mission (...) is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance. (...) Racism can, will, and must be defeated.”"

—  Audrey Azoulay Director-General, on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

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Past Commemorations