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Racial discrimination is a poison that diminishes individuals and societies, perpetuates inequality and feeds anger, bitterness and violence. The fight against racism and all forms of discrimination is a mainstay of peace and social cohesion, especially in our increasingly diverse societies. On the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, WAY calls on young people, member organisations and partners to step up their efforts to build a more inclusive, more giving and fairer world.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established six years ago after an event, known as the Sharpeville tragedy or Sharpeville massacre, which captured the world’s attention. This event involved police opening fire and killing 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa, March 21, 1960.

Observed on the 21st March yearly, to remind people of the consequences of racial discrimination. It also encourages people to remember their obligation to combat racial discrimination. It is a day of great significance in the history of the struggle to end the policy of Apartheid which segregated people on the basis of their race and skin colour as well as denied the basic human rights of the minority.

This year’s theme is “Promoting tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity in the context of combating racial discrimination”. Every person is entitled to human rights without discrimination. The rights to equality and non-discrimination are cornerstones of human rights law. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the declaration, without distinction of race or any other kind.

Yet racism, xenophobia and intolerance are problems prevalent in all societies, and discriminatory practices are widespread, particularly targeting migrants and refugees as well as people of African descent.

We at the World Assembly of Youth (WAY), deem that racism is taught, and, thus, believe that the best way to combat this issue is to approach the concern with solidarity and harmony. We seek to promote global citizenship education and develop tools and expertise capable of enhancing mutual understanding, critical thinking and intercultural dialogue. We, therefore, encourage the young people and youth leaders, to unite and incorporate the ethics of respect, equality and solidarity in daily activities.

The Melaka International Youth Dialogue (MIYD) is one of our main channels that seeks not only to help young people voice their opinions but also to find ways to fight racism, promote tolerance among each other and value diversification as an asset to explore ideas from different angles. There are many examples out there, past and present, that can be innovatively emulated and we urge young people to join us in the effort of combating racism and racial discrimination.

Together, let us take comprehensive measures to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and to promote tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity.