See also other papers in the UNESCO-series on race.
Paris, September 1967
1. ‘All men are born free and equal both in dignity and in rights.’ This
universally proclaimed democratic principle stands in jeopardy wherever
political, economic, social and cultural inequalities affect human group
relations. A particularly striking obstacle to the recognition of equal
dignity for all is racism. Racism continues to haunt the world. As a
major social phenomenon it requires the attention of all students of the
sciences of man.
2. Racism stultifies the development of those who suffer from it,
perverts those who apply it, divides nations within themselves, aggravates
international conflict and threatens world peace.
3. Conference of experts meeting in Paris in September 1967, agreed
that racist doctrines lack any scientific basis whatsoever. It reaffirmed
the propositions adopted by the international meeting held in Moscow
in 1964 which was called to re-examine the biological aspects of the
statements on race and racial differences issued in 1950 and 1951. In
particular, it draws attention to the following points:
(a) All men living today belong to the same species and descend from
the same stock.
(b) The division of the human species into ‘races’ is partly conventional
and partly arbitrary and does not imply any hierarchy whatsoever.
Many anthropologists stress the importance of human variation, but
believe that ‘racial‘ divisions have limited scientific interest and may
even carry the risk of inviting abusive generalisation.
(c) Current biological knowledge does not permit us to impute cultural
achievements to differences in genetic potential. Differences in the
achievements of different peoples should be attributed solely to their
cultural history. The peoples of the world today appear to possess
equal biological potentialities for attaining any level of civilisation.
Racism grossly falsifies the knowledge of human biology.
4. The human problems arising from so-called ‘race’ relations are
social in origin rather than biological. A basic problem is racism, namely,
antisocial beliefs and acts which are based on the fallacy that discriminatory
intergroup relations are justifiable on biological grounds.
5. Groups commonly evaluate their characteristics in comparison
with others. Racism falsely claims that there is a scientific basis for
arranging groups hierarchically in terms of psychological and cultural
characteristics that are immutable and innate. In this way it seeks to
make existing differences appear inviolable as a means of permanently
maintaining current relations between groups.
6. Faced with the exposure of the falsity of its biological doctrines,
racism finds ever new stratagems for justifying the inequality of groups.
It points to the fact that groups do not intermarry, a fact which follows,
in part, from the divisions created by racism. It uses this fact to argue
the thesis that this absence of intermarriage derives from differences of a
biological order. Whenever it fails in its attempts to prove that the
source of group differences lies in the biological field, it falls back upon
justifications in terms of divine purpose, cultural differences, disparity
of educational standards or some other doctrine which would serve to
mask its continued racist beliefs. Thus, many of the problems which
racism presents in the world today do not arise merely from its open
manifestations, but from the activities of those who discriminate on
racial grounds but are unwilling to acknowledge it.
7. Racism has historical roots. It has not been a universal phenomenon.
Many contemporary societies and cultures show little trace of it.
It was not evident for long periods in world history. Many forms of
racism have arisen out of the conditions of conquest, out of the justification
of Negro slavery and its aftermath of racial inequality in the West,
and out of the colonial relationship. Among other examples is that of
antisemitism, which has played a particular role in history, with Jews
being the chosen scapegoat to take the blame for problems and crises
met by many societies.
8. The anti-colonial revolution of the twentieth century has opened
up new possibilities for eliminating the scourge of racism. In some
formerly dependent countries, people formerly classified as inferior
have for the first time obtained full political rights. Moreover, the
participation of formerly dependent nations in international organisations
in terms of equality has done much to undermine racism.
9. There are, however, some instances in certain societies in which
groups, victims of racialistic practices, have themselves applied doctrines
with racist implications in their struggle for freedom. Such an attitude
is a secondary phenomenon, a reaction stemming from men’s search for
an identity which prior racist theory and racialistic practices denied
them. Nonetheless, the new forms of racist ideology, resulting from this
prior exploitation, have no justification in biology. They are a product of
a political struggle and have no scientific foundation.
10. In order to undermine racism it is not sufficient that biologists
should expose its fallacies. It is also necessary that psychologists and
sociologists should demonstrate its causes. The social structure is always
an important factor. However, within the same social structure, there
may be great individual variation in racialistic behaviour, associated
with the personality of the individuals and their personal circumstances.
11. The committee of experts agreed on the following conclusions
about the social causes of race prejudice:
(a) Social and economic causes of racial prejudice are particularly
observed in settler societies wherein are found conditions of great
disparity of power and property, in certain urban areas where there
have emerged ghettoes in which individuals are deprived of equal
access to employment, housing, political participation, education,
and the administration of justice, and in many societies where social
and economic tasks which are deemed to be contrary to the ethics
or beneath the dignity of its members are assigned to a group of
different origins who are derided, blamed, and punished for taking
on these tasks.
(b) Individuals with certain personality troubles may be particularly
inclined to adopt and manifest racial prejudices. Small groups,
associations, and social movements of a certain kind sometimes
preserve and transmit racial prejudices. The foundations of the
prejudices lie, however, in the economic and social system of a
(c) Racism tends to be cumulative. Discrimination deprives a group of
equal treatment and presents that group as a problem. The group
then tends to be blamed for its own condition, leading to further
elaboration of racist theory.
12. The major techniques for coping with racism involve changing
those social situations which give rise to prejudice, preventing the prejudiced
from acting in accordance with their beliefs, and combating the
false beliefs themselves.
13. It is recognised that the basically important changes in the social
structure that may lead to the elimination of racial prejudice may require
decisions of a political nature. It is also recognised, however, that certain
agencies of enlightenment, such as education and other means of social
and economic advancement, mass media, and law can be immediately
and effectively mobilised for the elimination of racial prejudice.
14. The school and other instruments for social and economic progress
can be one of the most effective agents for the achievement of
broadened understanding and the fulfilment of the potentialities of man.
They can equally much be used for the perpetuation of discrimination
and inequality. It is therefore essential that the resources for education
and for social and economic action of all nations be employed in two
(a) The schools should ensure that their curricula contain scientific
understandings about race and human unity, and that invidious
distinctions about peoples are not made in texts and classrooms
(b) (i) Because the skills to be gained in formal and vocational education
become increasingly important with the processes of technological
development, the resources of the schools and other
resources should be fully available to all parts of the population
with neither restriction nor discrimination;
(ii) Furthermore, in cases where, for historical reasons, certain
groups have a lower average education and economic standing,
it is the responsibility of the society to take corrective measures.
These measures should ensure, so far as possible, that the limitations
of poor environments are not passed on to the children.
In view of the importance of teachers in any educational programme,
special attention should be given to their training. Teachers should be
made conscious of the degree to which they reflect the prejudices which
may be current in their society. They should be encouraged to avoid
15. Governmental units and other organisations concerned should
give special attention to improving the housing situations and work
opportunities available to victims of racism. This will not only counteract
the effects of racism, but in itself can be a positive way of modifying
racist attitudes and behaviour.
16. The media of mass communication are increasingly important in
promoting knowledge and understanding, but their exact potentiality
is not fully known. Continuing research into the social utilisation of the
media is needed in order to assess their influence in relation to formation
of attitudes and behavioural patterns in the field of race prejudice and
race discrimination. Because the mass media reach vast numbers of
people at different educational and social levels, their role in encouraging
or combating race prejudice can be crucial. Those who work in these
media should maintain a positive approach to the promotion of understanding
between groups and populations. Representation of peoples in
stereotypes and holding them up to ridicule should be avoided. Attachment
to news reports of racial designations which are not germane to the
accounts should also be avoided.
17. Law is among the most important means of ensuring equality
between individuals and one of the most effective means of fighting racism.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948
and the related international agreements and conventions which have
taken effect subsequently can contribute effectively, on both the national
and international level, to the fight against any injustice of racist origin.
National legislation is a means of effectively outlawing racist propaganda
and acts based upon racial discrimination. Moreover, the policy
expressed in such legislation must bind not only the courts and judges
charged with its enforcement, but also all agencies of government of
whatever level or whatever character.
It is not claimed that legislation can immediately eliminate prejudice.
Nevertheless, by being a means of protecting the victims of acts based
upon prejudice, and by setting a moral example backed by the dignity
of the courts, it can, in the long run, even change attitudes.
18. Ethnic groups which represent the object of some form of discrimination
are sometimes accepted and tolerated by dominating groups
at the cost of their having to abandon completely their cultural identity.
It should be stressed that the effort of these ethnic groups to preserve
their cultural values should be encouraged. They will thus be better able
to contribute to the enrichment of the total culture of humanity.
19. Racial prejudice and discrimination in the world today arise from
historical and social phenomena and falsely claim the sanction of science.
It is, therefore, the responsibility of all biological and social scientists,
philosophers, and others working in related disciplines, to ensure that
the results of their research are not misused by those who wish to
propagate racial prejudice and encourage discrimination.
This statement was prepared by a committee of experts on race and racial
prejudice which met at Unesco House, Paris, from 18 to 26 September
1967. The following experts took part in the committee’s work:
Professor Muddathir Abdel Rahim, University of Khartoum (Sudan);
Professor Georges Balandier, Université de Paris (France);
Professor Celio de Oliveira Borja, University of Guanabara (Brazil);
Professor Lloyd Braithwaite, University of the West Indies (Jamaica);
Professor Leonard Broom, University of Texas (United States);
Professor G. F. Debetz, Institute of Ethnography, Moscow (USSR);
Professor J. Djordjevic, University of Belgrade (Yugoslavia);
Dean Clarence Clyde Fergusm, Howard University (United States);
Dr Dharam P. Ghai, University College (Kenya);
Professor Louis Guttman, Hebrew University (Israel);
Professor Jean Hiernaux, Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium);
Professor A. Kloskowska, University of Lodz (Poland);
Judge Kéba M’Baye, President of the Supreme Court (Senegal);
Professor John Rex, University of Durham (United Kingdom);
Professor Mariano R. Solveira, University of Havana (Cuba);
Professor Hisashi Suzuki, University of Tokyo (Japan);
Dr Romila Thapar, University of Delhi (India);
Professor C. H. Waddington, University of Edinburgh (United Kingdom).
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