Commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
On this day in 1960, the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire at a demonstration against apartheid "pass laws"1. Sixty-nine peaceful protestors were murdered, and international outrage followed. Swiss Re joins the world community in observing the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, remembering the massacre and opening a week of solidarity with the victims of racism and racial discrimination around the world.
Today, it is sixty-one years later, and all around the world there is a still-growing array of grim anniversaries to commemorate. Progress toward racial equality has lagged significantly behind other major societal advances we've made over the same period. Hate incidents against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States and events that sparked the global Black Lives Matter movement are stark reminders that racial and ethnic discrimination remain an ugly and persistent reality that impact countless lives around the world today.
It's time to change this trajectory. We must do better – as individuals, in our institutions and in our societies. At Swiss Re, we recognise the need for more and faster progress in societies and we are committed to doing our part. We do not tolerate discrimination of any sort in our company and seek to provide an environment where all our colleagues are welcome, can flourish in their development and get equal opportunities to succeed. By doing that we will attract and retain the best talent available and have the type of diverse workforce best suited to supporting our clients and achieving our vision of making the world more resilient.
Additionally, we cannot hide behind institutions. Each and every one of us has the responsibility as decent human beings to do our part. To stand by is to be complicit – justice, equality and dignity will not be achieved if we sit on the side-lines and allow the current situation to continue. I purposely volunteered to be the Group Executive Committee's sponsor to promote inclusion and diversity through the lens of race and ethnicity at Swiss Re and personally commit to doing four simple things that I can control and do by myself right now: listen deeply to our colleagues and to the wider discussion on race and ethnicity in order to learn and understand the issues better; create additional awareness while being comfortable with being uncomfortable; challenge existing processes to remove confirmatory biases; and be an active ally and speak up where I see something wrong. While these are only starting points, I thank all my fellow GEC members and other colleagues who have already joined in this commitment and call upon the rest of the organisation to follow suit.
The world reacted with outrage sixty-one years ago to the tragic events that gave rise to today's anniversary of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. We remember those events and will accelerate progress towards equality by taking conscious action to eliminate racism and racial discrimination for good. Together, we will make that difference. Join us.
1. For more information see Pass Laws and Sharpeville Massacre | South African History Online (sahistory.org.za)