Racism, stop the rule of silence

European week of action against all forms of racial discrimination

"Make hate crime visible": this is the slogan chosen for the European Week of action against racism, whose symbolic date is March 21. For the past fifty years March 21 marks the International Day for the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. This annual event was declared as a memorial by the United Nations in response to the murder of 69 anti-apartheid demonstrators in Sharpeville, South Africa, in 1960. Thanks to the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) during the week are promoted conferences, workshops and events to raise public awareness on a problem that today as in the past insinuates itself and threatens European society. This year’s theme is "Stop the silence": to defeat racial discrimination it is necessary "to make visible and report all hate crimes"."Bottom up" change. "No member state has a clean record when it comes to racism, xenophobia and hate crimes", Vice-President of the EU Commission Viviane Reding said during the latest European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg (March 11-14). The Commissioner underlined that the progress of the 2008 Council Framework Decision on racism and xenophobia" is slow and that many of the hate crimes are "not reported to the Fundamental Rights Agency, so the problem is even greater than we can see". But Europe needs migrants, qualified migrants in particular, in order to address the problem of population ageing. Specific policies have become a priority and progress was made in last plenary, when the European Parliament voted in favour of the resolution on migrants’ integration. But actions from above are not enough for EU institutions, grassroots level must prompt the will to change, in favour of equality and solidarity, regardless of religious affiliation, ethnicity or cultural background.The phenomenon in Europe. Figures released by ENAR show that racism in Europe takes many forms, new and old, fuelled within Member States. In particular, "freedom of expression" is used to justify the ‘right to offend’ ethnic and religious minorities and incite hatred against others, thus legitimising racism in the name of this right", experts say. Moreover, "an ideology of ‘white victimhood’, or ‘reverse racism’, has been developing across Europe, whereby minorities and people from other cultures are portrayed as endangering the ‘native’ population, who would have become a ‘minority’ in its own society". This destructive behaviour has also been caused by European states and leaders who failed to respond to and counter these trends, due to a misguided fear of losing part of their electorate despite the fact that two- thirds of Europeans support policies in favour of equality and justice. Teamwork. The UN’s proposal for the Day is to fight discrimination through sport. Both sports and human rights share many fundamental values and objectives. The principles underpinning the Olympic Charter, such as non-discrimination and equality, are also the bedrock of human rights. Moreover, "the "goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity". Well-designed sport activities – when it isn’t the target of hatred and violence – incorporates self-discipline, respect for one’s opponent, fair play, and teamwork. Such values could help integrate marginalized groups and teach individuals the values necessary to prevent and resolve social tensions and conflicts. Cities on the move. To involve international actors in the fight on racism, in 2004 UNESCO launched the International Coalition of Cities against Racism: a network of cities interested in sharing experiences in order to improve their policies to fight racism, discrimination, xenophobia and exclusion has grown larger year after year. For UNESCO, "The role of city authorities as policy-makers at the local level, is considered here as the key to create dynamic synergies". The ultimate objective is to establish a "network of cities" organized around a "ten-Point Plan of Action" composed of ten commitments covering the various areas of competence of city authorities, so as to introduce them within their municipal strategies and policies, and to involve the various actors within civil society in its implementation. In fact, only by reforming societies and communities will it be truly possible, for UNESCO, to put into practice the first article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that states: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights".

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