Fighting Racism and Discrimination: History, Memory and Contemporary Challenges

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny – Martin Luther King Jr.

The commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was opened by Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, and keynote speaker William Bell Sr., Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama (United States of America) , one of the world’s most emblematic cities in the fight against racism.

In her opening address, the Director-General underlined the importance of learning from historical injustices to build lasting peace:

We will fight against racism and discrimination by teaching respect and tolerance, by sharing the common history of all humanity – including its most tragic chapters.

Recalling the importance of understanding the dynamics of exclusion and exploitation in our societies, the Director-General called for unity in today’s combat against discrimination around the world, highlighting initiatives such as the International Coalition of Cities against Racism (ICCAR), which promotes cooperation and collaboration in the fight against discrimination at the local and municipal level.

As Mayor of Birmingham, the lead city in the US Coalition of Cities against Racism, William Bell retraced the history and global impact of the Civil Rights movement, underlining our common responsibility in promoting respect for human rights and dignity around the world today:

Human rights extends to everyone, and we must work constantly to let everybody know that they have an obligation to work towards eliminating racism”.

With speakers including city officials, policy-makers, international experts and civil society actors involved in combating racism and discrimination around the world, and with more than 200 participants including many school and university students, the day’s events featured panel discussions, workshop sessions and a multimedia exhibition.