International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2018: Promoting Inclusive Societies

20 March 2018


© UNESCO / Olivier Marie

UNESCO will mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21 March) with events designed to promote tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity, the theme chosen for the Day this year.

Fighting discrimination has been a priority of UNESCO for decades, but the current societal context compels us to explore new ways of enhancing “living together” and creating inclusive societies free of discrimination. The rise in ethno-nationalism in many parts of the world and increased controls over population movements across national borders have fed mistrust, intolerance and hatred of “the other.” Nationalist narratives undermine the international community’s acceptance of multiculturalism, global citizenship and intercultural dialogue, reminding us of the enduring relevance of the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice, adopted by Member States at UNESCO in 1978.

“Racist ideology can only be combated effectively with the weapons of the mind,” says UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay. “Through science, firstly, which reveals the dishonesty of racist thinking and exposes its social, ideological, political and historic mainsprings. Through education, secondly, which teaches that no person is worth less than another and that diversity is an asset which we must respect. Through culture, finally, the only means by which we can replace deadly social hierarchy with a world shaped by awareness of belonging to a common humanity.”

A roundtable discussion at UNESCO Headquarters on the theme of "Deconstructing racial narratives: challenging assumptions and fostering diversity" (3.00 – 4.30 pm, Room IV) will feature a lecture by Professor Evelyne Heyer of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle–Musée de l’Homme (France) and a panel discussion. During the event, participants will examine racial narratives past and present with the participation of international experts including Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, a member of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and Lukwago Erias, mayor of Kampala (Uganda).

Later in the Day, the travelling exhibition “Us and Them – From Prejudice to Racism” will be inaugurated at UNESCO (4.30 pm, Miro Hall). Conceived and produced by the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, the exhibition sheds light on racist behaviour and prejudices, and showcases global efforts for inclusion and diversity, notably through the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities—ICCAR, which was launched by UNESCO in 2004. It also includes artwork from UNESCO’s Associated Schools Network (ASPnet) contest “Opening Hearts and Minds”.

After showing at UNESCO, the exhibition will travel to different ICCAR member cities in 2018-2019.


More information on the Round Table

More information on the Travelling Exhibition

More on the International Coalition of Inclusive and Sustainable Cities – ICCAR


Twitter: @UNESCO #FightRacism

Discover the UNESCO Courier’s issues dedicated to Racism


Accreditation and media contact: Djibril Kébé, UNESCO Media Section,, +33(0)145681741