David Keane

The movement toward international legislation against racial discrimination began as a response to a growing number of anti-Semitic incidents that took place in the winter of 1959-1960, known as the ‘swastika epidemic’. The incident, a spontaneous outbreak of graffiti and desecration of Jewish cemeteries that erupted in states as diverse as Costa Rica, Sweden and New Zealand, prompted a series of UN resolutions which culminated in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination 1965 (ICERD). The pragmatic understanding of racial groups found in the Convention, the very first human rights treaty, reflects the fact that its origins are as much expressions of religious intolerance as racial discrimination.