International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The United Nations’ (UN) International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed with a series of events and activities worldwide on March 21 each year. The day aims to remind people of racial discrimination’s negative consequences. It also encourages people to remember their obligation and determination to combat racial discrimination. The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is not a public holiday in all countries. Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States are several countries that do not recognize this day as a public holiday.


It was established six years after an event, known as the Sharpeville massacre. This event involved police opening fire and killing sixty-nine people at a peaceful demonstration against the apartheid “pass laws” in Sharpeville, South Africa, March 21, 1960. Sharpeville massacre capture worldwide attention. The UN General Assembly called on the international community to increase its awareness and efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. The UN General Assembly proclaimed the day as an UN Day of observance in 1966. The UN continues its work to fight against all forms of racial intolerance.

2022 Theme

The 2022 edition of the International Day focuses on the theme “VOICES FOR ACTION AGAINST RACISM”. This edition aims, in particular, at: highlighting the importance of strengthening meaningful and safe public participation and representation in all areas of decision-making to prevent and combat racial discrimination; reaffirming the importance of full respect for the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and of protecting civic space; and recognizing the contribution of individuals and organizations that stand up against racial discrimination and the challenges they face.

This simple message can be a powerful vehicle to encourage people everywhere to strengthen and consolidate their voices against racism, to mobilize against all forms and manifestations of racial discrimination and injustice, and to ensure a safe environment for those who speak up. It lends itself towards telling personal interest stories and can feature people and populations from across the world.

Learn More

Please click on the hyperlinks below to find out more details on holiday and how we all can play our part in combatting racial discrimination.

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (

United Nations Observances