International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 2022

21 March

The UN General Assembly resolution 2142 (XXI), adopted on 26 October 1966, proclaimed 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to be commemorated annually. On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid "pass laws". Proclaiming the Day in 1966 which signifies the struggle to end the policy of apartheid in South Africa, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

The struggle against racial discrimination is a central element of UNESCO's work to build peace in the minds of men and women, through education for tolerance, the rejection of racist stereotypes that may persist in culture or in the media.

The Sharpeville Massacre

On March 21, 1960, a large group of South Africans gathered in the township of Sharpeville to protest against the oppressive apartheid government. In particular, the protesters sought to demonstrate against the Pass laws, which required all indigenous Africans over the age of 16 to carry a passbook everywhere they went. This long-standing practice served to severely restrict and control travel, dictating when, where and for how long black South Africans could stay within white areas.

The demonstration began with a festive atmosphere, as thousands of unarmed South Africans gathered in peaceful protest. As the crowd grew ever-larger, however, long-simmering tensions rose to a boil. An initial police presence of fewer than 20 officers soon rose to nearly 150 as reinforcements were rushed in, joined by four armored personnel carriers and armed with various rifles and submachine guns. Scuffles broke out as the crowd, armed only with rocks, surged toward the police station. The police opened fire on the crowd, killing 69 people and injuring 180 more.

Event Category

Share this page

Similar categories to explore