• 19 March 2020

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    Category : Opinion

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    International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

    Florencia Gaya, project technician for “Living without discrimination in Morocco” and an expert in equality and non-discrimination, tells us why March 21 is the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination, offering an in-depth reflection on the reality of discrimination and the role of cooperation to promote coexistence and fight racism.

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    21 March this year marks the 60th anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa. On that day in 1960, dozens of peaceful demonstrators were killed by the South African police while protesting against the apartheid Pass Law.[1]

    In memory of the victims of this bloody episode that marked a turning point in the history of the fight against racial segregation, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is celebrated every March 21.

    It is a day on which we draw attention to and raise awareness of this issue, as well as highlighting the fact that there is still much to do in order to build inclusive societies in which diversity is seen as an opportunity and not as a threat.

    Discrimination: an everyday reality for many people and groups

    Although discrimination is prohibited by law, racism and xenophobia are part of daily life for many people and groups.

    An immigrant couple who are denied a job or unable to rent a home because they are foreigners. A young Muslim woman who is insulted on public transport for wearing a hijab. A young gypsy victim of bullying by his classmates due to his origin.

    These are some examples of unequal treatment and racist episodes that some people face daily as a result of their skin colour, beliefs or national or ethnic origin.

    One of the greatest difficulties is that very often, those involved (the perpetrators and victims of these acts) do not even perceive these events as discriminatory, racist or xenophobic.

    What it takes to combat these practices more effectively

    We need to promote measures and action at different levels.

    We need, first, to be aware of the problem, recognise it and make it visible. Understand the way in which discriminated groups suffer, measuring the size of the problem through data collection, studies and research. We need to raise public awareness on these issues.

    We also need the promotion and implementation of more effective legislative measures, in order that countries, as the main actors responsible for guaranteeing the right to equality and non-discrimination, assume a strong commitment in this regard, providing legal instruments, policies, plans, programmes and other courses of action to prevent and fight against such phenomena.

    We need to put in place educational and training measures and those that raise awareness about human rights, which help dismantle the prejudices and stereotypes at the heart of racist and discriminatory behaviour, which place value on and encourage respect for diversity.

    We need to listen more, show interest and understand the point of view of the people who are directly affected, giving an adequate response to victims.

    We need strategies to tackle any new expressions of intolerance and hatred which are spread through the internet, among many other measures.

    Cooperation as a tool to promote coexistence and fight racism

    Cooperation with other countries, organisations and relevant institutions can serve to strengthen national mechanisms for the promotion and protection of rights and support the actions that are being implemented by different actors to promote coexistence and combat racism and xenophobia.

    For example, in the case of migrants, international cooperation projects can contribute to reinforcing public policies aimed at promoting integration, equal treatment and non-discrimination. They can also provide support and training for other non-institutional actors, such as NGOs, allowing them to play an important role in this regard.

    The delegated cooperation project, “Living together without discrimination: an approach based on human rights and the gender dimension”, a project financed by the European Union in which FIIAPP participates as a co-delegated partner of  AECID, focuses specifically on these aims.

    Through support, the exchange of experiences and knowledge of good Spanish and European practices, the project seeks to improve existing public instruments and policies in Morocco aimed at preventing and combating racism and xenophobia towards the migrant population.

    It is a complex, comprehensive and highly relevant project in the current context, since it addresses some of the fundamental axes and areas of action that countries need to establish or reinforce in order to advance towards effective equality.


    [1] The Pass Law was one of the measures imposed by the apartheid regime in South Africa through which the movement of the black population within the country was strictly controlled and restricted.

    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of its author.