New York- US (PANA) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday urged all countries to work together in the struggle against racism, which he said still widely exists across the world.
Ban gave the charge in a message to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, observed on 21 March every year.
``The first article of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights affirms that `all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,' he said, adding: ``The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reminds us of our collective responsibility for promoting and protecting this ideal.
'' The Secretary-General added: ``Together, we must strengthen our common endeavour to put an end to racial discrimination and xenophobia wherever it occurs.
'' He recalled that on 21 March, 1969, 69 peaceful protesters were gunned down by police in the South African township of Sharpeville as they demonstrated peacefully against the apartheid ``pass laws''.
``Many more, including women and children were wounded,'' Ban said.
``By proclaiming 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the UN General Assembly wished to honour the memory of those who were massacred and to condemn racism,'' he said.
The UN chief noted: `'Since then, the apartheid system in South Africa has been dismantled.
Racist laws and practices have been abolished in many countries, and we have built an international framework for fighting racism, guided by the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
'' ``The convention is now nearing universal ratification, yet still, in all regions, too many individuals, communities and societies suffer from the injustice and sigma that racism begins,'' he added.