The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Wednesday 20 March 2013

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Sport in the confrontation to racism

Giornata mondiale per l’Eliminazione della Discriminazione RazzialeThe International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is annually commemorated by the international community on the 21st March. This year such a memorable day will be held all over the world in the spotlight of the “Racism and Sport” theme what was chosen by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Considering sport as a low-cost and high-impact tool in humanitarian, peace-building and development efforts, it has a power and intensity for attracting people’s attention, mobilizing common efforts as well as for inspiring for tackling racism and racial discrimination. At the same time, mass sport as a means of highlighting problem of racism and overcoming it is used to reach out to those most in need including refugees, child soldiers, victims of conflict and natural catastrophes, the impoverished, persons with disabilities, victims of racism, stigmatization and discrimination, persons living with HIV/AIDS in both developed and developing countries for both poor and rich.

According to the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace, well-designed sport activities can help integrate marginalized groups and teach individuals the values necessary to prevent and resolve social tensions and conflicts. The mobilizing power of sport is often used as a “door-opener” to convey crucial messages about HIV/AIDS, child’s rights, the environment, education, etc. In grassroots projects  sport is used in an extremely wide range of situations – whether as an integrated tool in short-term emergency humanitarian aid activities, or in long-term development cooperation projects, on a local, regional or global scale.

On the legislative level the strong background for it was assured in 2012 when the UN General Assembly passed its Resolution on sport, reaffirming the use of sport to bring about positive social change. The “Sport as a means to promote education, health, development and peace” Resolution encourages the use of sport as a vehicle to foster development and strengthen education, prevent disease, empower girls and women, promote the inclusion and well-being of persons with disabilities, and facilitate conflict prevention and peace-building.

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The origins of this memorable day go decades back when in 1960 police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid pass laws. This day commemorates the lives that have been lost to fight for democracy and equal human rights in South Africa during the Apartheid regime which strongly embraced racial discrimination. In 1966 by the United Nations General Assembly this day was proclaimed as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as a wake-up call for international community to force its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.