What can schools do to overcome exclusion, intolerance, racism and discrimination? How can teachers and students advocate for mutual understanding and respect of human dignity?

In its recent resolution on eliminating racism, the United Nations General Assembly reiterated that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and have the potential to contribute constructively to the development and well-being of their societies.

In many parts of the world, such racial, ethnic, and religious discriminatory practices are still widespread. They take on many forms, at times dramatically brutal and at others sly and underhand. It is detrimental to group and individual identity and to living together peacefully.

Promoting mutual understanding and respect for diversity, along with countering all forms of intolerance and discrimination, is today, more than ever, a priority for UNESCO and UNESCO associated Schools Network (ASPnet). The Sustainable Development Goal 10 calls for reducing inequalities based on age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.

The attitudes and tensions that lead to racism or other types of discriminatory practices are often deeply rooted in stereotypes and misconceptions, and one of the most pressing contemporary challenges is to promote knowledge about, and understanding of, different cultures.

For many years, ASPnet schools have initiated and implemented projects and activities to promote a culture of living together and international understanding that cherishes diversity. One such project is the arts contest "Opening Hearts and Minds to Refugees", which raised awareness among children and youth on the rights of, and respect for refugees. Another is the development of a guidebook and trainings for teachers to incorporate documentary heritage as a teaching and learning resource for primary, secondary and tertiary schools. 

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination represents an important reminder to increase efforts against racism and all forms of discrimination and to promote tolerance, inclusion, unity and respect for diversity fostering peace and social cohesion.

Ideas for action for teachers and students:

  • Celebrate the day in your school by conducting different activities.
  • Design posters or an anti-racism badge.
  • Research about women and men in the history of your country or in the world which have stood up against racism and discrimination
  • Set up a multi-cultural desk in the classroom where students bring in something that reflects cultural diversity.