High Commissioner’s Message on International Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination


Statement by Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Germany. Refugee student delegation visits Free University of Berlin on World Refugee Day 2019Refugee students meet in Berlin, Germany, on World Refugee Day 2019. © UNHCR/Antoine Tardy

Over the past year, we’ve witnessed the deadly impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the scourge of racism has also devastated many lives with tragic consequences.

Violent and deadly attacks against Black, Brown, Asian and Indigenous people, toxic language, and daily and sustained racially charged acts have rightly forced painful – but necessary – conversations to re-examine prejudice, privilege, the way we view the world, and most importantly how we act.

We must take this opportunity to work towards a world that is not just against racism, but is actively anti-racist.

As the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, I have seen first hand how racism and racial discrimination are a root cause of persecution and displacement. Actively combatting racism and racial discrimination can and will help prevent this. It will also reduce the dangerous discrimination and stigmatization that all too often confronts refugees in their countries of asylum.

A failure to eliminate racial discrimination will continue to force innocent people to flee and fear for their lives.

But today is not only a recognition of the need for others to act. We must all pause and reflect on ourselves, our organizations, and our actions. UNHCR is looking inwards to build a more diverse and inclusive workforce to deliver on our mandate and respond to the needs of displaced and stateless people around the world.

We are working to become better cognizant of our unconscious bias and to eliminate discrimination to become a more anti-racist, non-discriminatory organization. This is my commitment as High Commissioner: to ensure that UNHCR is an organization where diversity is not only valued, but where every colleague feels seen, heard, and represented.

This year on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination I call on all of us to renew our commitment to listen, stand up, speak out, and actively combat racism and racial discrimination. Racism and racial discrimination against anyone of us hurts all of us.

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