AU Watch

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

21 March

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. South Africa also celebrates Human Rights Day on 21 March.

In 1979, the General Assembly adopted a Programme of activities to be undertaken during the second half of the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination (A/RES/34/24). On that occasion, the General Assembly decided that a week of solidarity with the peoples struggling against racism and racial discrimination, beginning on 21 March, would be organised annually in all States.

Since then, the apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled. Racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries. There is now an international framework for fighting racism, guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.