Race relations

Developing harmonious race relations also depends on eliminating racism. Racism uses biological differences – whether imagined or real – to assert the superiority of one group over another to justify aggression or privilege. Racism is any individual action, or institutional practice backed by institutional power, which subordinates or negatively affects people because of their ethnicity.

The two key international treaties on the human rights of all people are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICECSR). Both these and subsequent human rights treaties, such as the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, explicitly affirm the right to freedom from racial discrimination and the rights of all people to practise their own culture, religion and language.

Because of the pervasive and destructive impact of racism and racial discrimination, a specific Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was adopted by the United Nations in 1965. This convention defines racial discrimination as:

Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

The convention requires governments to eliminate racially discriminatory policies, prohibit racial discrimination and encourage intercultural communication. Governments are required to provide protection and remedies against racial discrimination and to adopt measures to combat prejudice and promote understanding and tolerance.