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The UN General Assembly adopted a Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in November 1963, and a convention in 1965. In 1966, the UN proclaimed an annual ‘international day’ to promote international awareness and action on the issue.  It chose 21 March, the date of the ‘Sharpeville Massacre’ in South Africa in 1960.

The UN has stated that although its convention is “nearing universal ratification”, nevertheless, “in all regions, too many individuals, communities and societies suffer from the injustice and stigma that racism brings”.  In December 2018, following an updated report, the General Assembly adopted a further declaration, calling for “concrete action for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”.

The UN’s special rapporteur in the area, E. Tendayi Achiume, produced two reports in August 2018 which investigated, on a global basis, “contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”.  In them, Ms Achiume identified particular threats from increasing “nationalist populism” and neo-Nazi and supremacist organisations. These reports provide the theme for the 2019 international day, which is “mitigating and countering rising nationalist populism and extreme supremacist ideologies”.  Both reports considered the role of new forms of media in promoting extremism.

Accordingly, this briefing considers the links between racism and, in turn, the concepts of ‘nationalist populism’ and neo-Nazism/extreme supremacism. It then explores the contemporary forms of these two ideologies by discussing their use of new forms of media, and how this use might be controlled. Finally, it summarises recent related developments in the UK.

This briefing was prepared prior to the attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 15 March 2019. The New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, described it as a terrorist attack based on extremist views.  In the House of Lords, the Lord Speaker stated that the thoughts and prayers of the House were with the families and friends of those who lost their lives, and with the people of New Zealand.  Following the attack, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, reiterated the urgency of “working together globally to counter Islamophobia and eliminate intolerance and violent extremism in all its forms”.


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