The Stormont Executive has been urged to make progress on commitments made in its Racial Equality Strategy.
Equality Commission chief Geraldine McGahey said surveys show that “significant work” is needed to “encourage positive attitudes to difference” in Northern Ireland.
A spotlight has been shone on the issue of racism following the death of George Floyd in police custody in the United States, sparking demonstrations across the world, including in Northern Ireland.
Ms McGahey said the commission’s most recent equality awareness survey showed that all five of the most negatively viewed categories were racial groups.
“It is clear that there is significant work to be done to encourage positive attitudes to difference and to tackle prejudice and any institutional racism,” she said.
The commission’s chief executive said the Executive’s Racial Equality Strategy has been in place since 2015 and has five more years to run.
“The Executive and departments need to progress the commitments already made in the strategy,” she said.
“Now is the time to push ahead on actions to eliminate racism and racial discrimination, to tackle prejudicial attitudes and to reform the race equality laws so that people here have the same protection against racial discrimination as elsewhere in the UK.
“The Executive Office needs to involve every part of Government to examine the changes needed to reduce racial inequalities and give clear timescales for actions.
“It will involve schools and agencies in education, criminal justice and housing, for example. The inclusion of black and ethnic minority people in public life and local communities must be improved and more positive contacts encouraged between people of different races and ethnicities, including in schools and workplaces.
“It is essential that we promote values of acceptance and respect for difference here and work together to ensure dignity and respect for people of all races and ethnic backgrounds.”