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Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination: The Tearing of Our Societies

September 29, 2020 | 3:00 pm - 4:30 pm

| Online

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An Interactive webinar on the margins of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly

The COVID-19 pandemic has torn across the world, affected all segments of the population indiscriminately regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or gender, and continues to have far-reaching health and economic consequences. But for many, the impact extends beyond medical and financial concerns. The pandemic has exposed social and political fractures within communities, with discriminatory responses to fear, disproportionately affecting communities on the basis of their real or perceived national origin, skin color, or religion. Several political parties have latched into the COVID-19 crisis to advance anti-immigrant, white supremacist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic conspiracy theories that demonize minorities on the sheer basis of their religion, belief, or ethnicity.

Outbreaks create fear, and fear is a crucial ingredient for racism, xenophobia, and discrimination to thrive. This phenomenon manifests differently in different contexts and populations. Yet, there is a pattern in discriminatory acts: the target is generally the “other,” i.e., the migrant, someone belonging to a religious or ethnic minority, etc. These behavior patterns, not uncommon before the pandemic, often lead to the fragmentation of society. Racism and discrimination have detrimental effects not only on the safety and human dignity of those who are targeted but also on development, peace, and social cohesion. The United Nations Secretary-General has warned of the repercussions of these discriminatory manifestations urging for an inclusive, equitable, and universal response in addressing the pandemic.

The position of the United Nations on racism and all its manifestations is crystal clear: this scourge violates the Charter of the United Nations and debases the core values upon which it was founded. The prohibition of racial discrimination is enshrined in all core international human rights instruments. It places obligations on States and tasks them with eradicating discrimination in public and private spheres. Therefore, it is imperative to promote tolerance, inclusion, and respect for diversity and stand up against racism, xenophobia, hate speech, and all forms of discrimination. The United Nations Secretary-General has made this a priority through launching initiatives such as the UN Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites, the UN Guidance Note on Addressing and Countering COVID-19 related Hate Speech3 , which builds on the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech4.

Framing the discussion:

COVID-19 is attacking societies at their core. The pandemic has devastated many lives and upended livelihoods. But we should not let it destroy our core humanistic values. Allowing the pandemic to tear apart the fabric of our societies would be one of the most severe upheavals of COVID-19. Inclusion of and dialogue with communities and marginalized groups helps in rebuilding trust and enhancing social cohesion. In this context, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) is organizing a webinar to explore ways to scale-up a whole-of-society approach to prevent and counter the scourge of all forms of discrimination, xenophobia, and racism.


The panel will be convened in the format of an interactive discussion with speakers representing relevant UN entities, human rights experts, and other stakeholders, including the media. Speakers will give brief introductions (three minutes), and the moderator will conduct a tour-de-table.


September 29, 2020
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
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