Message by the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“The Geneva Centre”) Ambassador Idriss Jazairy

21 March 2017 (GENEVA) – The 2017 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and this year’s theme addressing racial profiling and incitement to hatred, in the context of migration, comes at a timely moment.

We are witnessing a populist tidal wave deriving from the disruptive effects of globalization. Populist parties are on the march strengthening their presence in numerous countries. They are becoming part and parcel of the political landscape.

In an attempt to find shortcuts and easy excuses for the failures of political elites in addressing the plights of ordinary citizens, migrants are being scapegoated and accused of being the root-causes of the failures of societies.

The messages of populists and extremists stimulate xenophobia, bigotry and racial discrimination.

They build on fear, intolerance and prejudice manifested through hate crimes, political chauvinism and isolationism jeopardizing social harmony.

One is particularly shocked by the policies of selective compassion concerning migrants.

This has been expressed recently by political leaders claiming superiority of the culture of the Enlightenment that prevails in Europe, and yet refusing migrants fleeing death or persecution from the Middle East if they happen to be Muslims.

One can but be dismayed by the rise of hate crimes and discrimination witnessed in many countries which openly targets migrants.

As global citizens, we cannot turn a blind eye to incitements of hatred and discrimination being promulgated by populists in an attempt to seize political power.

We must stand up to these dangerous forces that seek to distort societies that were once praised for their openness and tolerance towards migration.

Migrants deserve stronger recognition for their contributions to societal development, economic growth and creation of employment.

They need to feel that their contributions are being valued, and that they are considered as vectors of development, peace and economic prosperity.

On the occasion of the 2017 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, I would like to strongly endorse the statement made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein calling upon governments to address the rise of hate crimes and of xenophobia witnessed across the world.

His statement illustrates the need to eliminate all forms of practices of discrimination that are widespread in many countries of the world:

“This day reminds us that States have no excuse for allowing racism and xenophobia to fester, much less flourish.

“They have the legal obligation to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination, to guarantee the right of everyone, no matter their race, colour, national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law.“

Decision-makers around the world need to unite their voices in making a common stand against discrimination that prevails in our societies.

Discrimination needs to become a closed chapter of history; it does not belong in the 21st century. 

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