Image credit: UN - Photo: 2022

UN Actions Against Hate Speech

By Caroline Mwanga

NEW YORK (IDN) — “Fighting hate, discrimination, racism and inequality is at the core of United Nations principles and the Organization’s work. It is enshrined in our founding Charter, in the international human rights framework and in our collective efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” says United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

Indeed. As the world’s only truly universal global organization, the United Nations has become the foremost forum to address issues that transcend national boundaries and cannot be resolved by any one country acting alone.

World history has shown many times how hate rhetoric threatens democratic values, tolerance and social stability, and how it may lead to human tragedies, including genocide.

As such, hate speech is not only a denial of the essential values of the Organization: it undermines the UN Charter‘s very core principles and objectives, such as respect for human dignity, equality and peace. As advancing human rights and fighting hate are at the heart of the Organization’s mission, the United Nations has the duty to confront the global issue of hate speech at every turn.

Since its origin, the United Nations have been working to prevent and combat hatred in many fronts, throughout its various entities and programmes, until in June 2019, United Nations Secretary-General Guterres launched—in response to the global increase of hateful rhetoric—the UN system-wide Strategy and Plan of Action designed to address the specific issue of hate speech under a common framework.

The UN response to hate speech currently covers a wide range of actions, from monitoring early warning signs of atrocity crimes, assisting States in interpreting human rights laws and developing national policies, to promoting civil society and grass-root initiatives, partnering with key stakeholders and organizing awareness-raising campaigns.

However, “most of the meaningful action against hate speech will not be taken by the United Nations alone”, but by all relevant stakeholders such as governments, regional and multilateral organizations, private companies, media, and religious and other civil society actors.

Therefore, the United Nations calls on States, as primary duty bearers, to address and counter hate speech—in full respect of the right to freedom of expression and fundamental human rights principles—and reaffirms the crucial role that non-State actors, the civil society and all citizens can play to stand up to hate speech and build the inclusive and peaceful societies that we deserve to live in.

Adopted in 2015 by all United Nations Member States, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a call for action by all countries—poor, rich and middle-income—to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs, including education, health, social protection and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.

Of the 17 Goals, SDG number 4 calls for inclusive and quality education for all and the promotion of lifelong learning to achieve sustainable development. The promotion of quality education plays a fundamental role to address the issue of hatred rhetoric both online and offline, and to prevent violence. Strengthening the resilience of all learners to hateful content also lies more specifically at the core of Target 4.7 of the SDG 4 and the UNESCO Education 2030 Agenda, which touches on the social, moral and humanistic purposes of education to strengthen global citizenship.

SDG number 16 is another goal in close relation with the issue of hate speech, as it calls for the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. In particular, the realization of Target 16.10—which aims for public access to information and the protection of fundamental freedoms, in accordance with the law—can help combat misinformation and disinformation.

The world’s efforts to make the SDGs a reality also contribute to addressing the issue of hate speech as the fulfillment of these interlinked goals help build peaceful and resilient societies. [IDN-InDepthNews – 12 July 2022]

Image credit: UN

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