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

21 March 2019 (GENEVA) – The 2019 International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and this year’s theme devoted to tolerance, empathy towards the Other and celebration of diversity, comes at a timely moment.

We are witnessing a populist tidal wave deriving from the disruptive effects of a phenomenon of globalization without a human face, lacking a moral compass. Populist parties are strengthening their presence in numerous countries, becoming mainstreamed in the political landscape and bringing in their wake increasingly tumultuous waves of xenophobia and ethnic discrimination, particularly targeted at people of Arab and African descent. The situation is prone to explosions of violence by the hostile pronouncements of some world leaders or by a mere state of denial entertained by the latter.

The messages of these populists and extremists are furthermore based on deliberately distorted interpretations of religious teachings to install hate, fear and prejudice, thereby critically jeopardizing social harmony and exacerbating marginalization and repression of minorities based on religion or ethnicity. Such messages are fomenting divisiveness and dangerous myths, instigating hostility and violence.

In parallel, racial discrimination has been exacerbated by the continuing and widening gap between the elite and the lower income groups, institutionalizing social stratification and subsequent societal fracture.

As global citizens, we cannot turn a blind eye to the increasing spread of hatred and discrimination resorted to as an attempt to seize or consolidate political power. There is a pressing need to stand up to these dangerous forces that seek to distort societies that were once praised for their openness and tolerance towards diversity in the social fabric and pluralism as an underlying approach. This is a time for vigilance to fight against the rise of prejudice in an increasingly aggressive manner.

The Durban Declaration and Plan of Action against racism, adopted 18 years ago, remains valid today as it calls for a consolidated strategy to restore rights and dignity for all, taking into account recent trends and developments, to address this scourge with a view to its ultimate elimination.

A vital component of such a strategy would be to ensure universal recognition and respect of equal citizenship rights for all throughout the world. It was towards this end that the Geneva Centre organized a World Conference on 25 June 2018 on the theme of “Religions, Creeds and Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights.” The conference sought to capitalize on the fundamental convergence of religions, creeds and value systems to mitigate the marginalization of communities worldwide with the goal of eliminating xenophobia and all forms of intolerance. The conference produced an outcome declaration aimed at moving towards greater spiritual convergence to support equal citizenship rights and resulted in a consensual global vision to promote this goal. The Geneva Centre will shortly be issuing a two-volume publication on the world conference.

The Geneva Centre wishes on this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to join hands with all those involved in such a noble endeavor.

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