Reducing racist violence

Combatting racial attacks
Mitigating ethnic harassment
Tackling ethnic violence

Democracy can be a barrier to ethnic violence, provided it means more than simply the right to vote in free elections. It involves building institutions of democracy – a civil society where there is freedom of expression, tolerance and acceptance of ethnic diversity – "civic identity has to replace ethnic identity". It is very important that a dominant ethnic group in any state does not grab all the power.


According to UNITED for Intercultural Action, the following structures/ activities are of much importance setting up: (1) [Community work] In most communities where racial harassment and other forms of direct discrimination take place, the inhabitants are not very close. When people get to know each other, they are less likely to attack each other. (2) [School education] Schools are the places where most children develop their friendships and get their basic education. To prevent problems later on, it is good to talk about racism and discrimination in the classroom. Children should have a possibility to talk about problems with a teacher or someone else they trust. (3) [Monitoring] Stay informed on what is happening in the community i.e. if a racist band plays in the area, if pub owners do not serve to people of color etc. This approach requires that someone is available to the community at all times. [Equal opportunities] Lobby local businesses and organizations to set up an equal opportunities policy.

When racial harassment or attacks are taking place, there are three main areas in which action can be taken. (1) [Support for the victims] The support victims need is on the one hand to be heard and on the other hand to have the feeling that someone wants to help. Another part involves giving them information on where to get help. Legal aid: Give information about the law, organize contacts to specialized lawyers, help in providing the means to go to court etc. Physical help: Sit with the victims, help them to secure their hose, provide a temporary place to stay etc. Psychological help: Listen to the victims and their families, get them into contact with people to whom the same thing happened, end the isolation etc. (2) [Community action] A 'multi-agency group' combines the forces of different local institutions, like the housing company, the school, and church. Community meetings break through the isolation felt by people under attack and offer wider practical support. Monitoring and gathering evidence: Evidence and witnesses are needed, particularly if there is to be a court case. Help-line: a 24 hour phone line where people can call when being threatened or when witnessing an attack. Pre-printed wallet cards have the number and information on rights. (3) [Campaigning] Publicity and press work make people aware of what is happening. Political representation and pressuring responsible authorities can help change basic situations. Combating prejudice in the general public by spreading the truth.

Taking action against racist political activity requires (1) monitoring and observation of current activities of racist organizations and parties; (2) investigation and research on the history and background of such organizations; (3) political activities against racists by picketing, publicity, exclusion from political forums; (4) cooperation with local, national and international organizations, institutions and experts; (5) publicity and press work to have important information more widely known.

In order to reduce racial harassment, agencies need to adopt a long-term approach consisting of three concentric strategies: a) the identification of and effective action against perpetrators; b) the identification of potential perpetrators and the development of strategies to divert them from actually becoming perpetrators; and c) the development of a range of strategies for consistently addressing the perpetrator community's general attitudes towards minority ethnic communities.

In the UK racial harassment logs are given to repeat victims for them to log any incident which takes place which they believe to be racially motivated. This has the advantage of providing the police with a permanent record of every incident. The log includes a description of what the perpetrator looked like, what happened, what words were used, whether there were any witnesses and to whom the victim reported the incident. The logs are produced in several languages for those victims who do not speak English.

In the UK racial harassment focus groups are set up to tackle racism in a particular area or street. These multi-agency panels analyses the racial incidents which have taken place and targets a particular area where a number of incidents have been reported. The police, the local council, the Racial Equality Council, Victim Support and local community groups attend the meeting. The aims of the focus groups are to provide support for victims, to make sure that resources are used effectively, to encourage victims to support each other and to raise the awareness of what support is available to victims.

European-wide initiatives against racial harassment include the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia in Vienna and the new Articles of the Treaty of Amsterdam (which provide the EU with a basis to tackle racism and discrimination).

Constrained by:
Committing racial attacks
Type Classification:
C: Cross-sectoral strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions