Countering hate speech is a key component of atrocity prevention, UN General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi said on Monday, calling for more global action towards eradicating it.
Mr. Kőrösi was speaking at an event to commemorate the 2nd International Day for Countering Hate Speech, which is officially observed on 18 June.
“It would be my wish that we would not have to observe this day. It would be my wish that hate speech were a thing of the past,” he said.
Hate speech is most often directed at women and girls, ethnic and religious minorities, and migrants and refugees.
Mr. Kőrösi noted that it is spreading on social media and online, “feeding a global rise in violence”. Some companies are also profiting from advertisements interspersed with online manifestations of hate speech.
“As new channels reach wider audiences, tech companies are struggling to take action,” he said. “How can we, the international community, step up our response? This is a question of responsibilities. Shared responsibilities.”
Identify and confront
Mr. Kőrösi said the International Day encourages everyone to do their part by identifying hate speech early, confronting it directly and halting it immediately.
Furthermore, a UN Strategy and Plan of Action on the issue “offer us a firm step in the right direction.”
Launched three years ago by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, these initiatives recognize hate speech as a precursor to atrocity crimes, including genocide and crimes against humanity. They also call for addressing the root causes and drivers.
Addressing hate online
In his message for the Day, Mr. Guterres said UN offices and teams across the world are confronting hate speech by implementing local action plans, based on the strategy.
“The United Nations is consulting governments, technology companies and others on a voluntary Code of Conduct for information integrity on digital platforms, aimed at reducing the spread of mis and disinformation and hate speech, while protecting freedom of expression,” he added.
The commemorative event was organized by Morocco and the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect.
The Secretary-General’s message was read by Alice Wairimu Nderitu, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.
She said that as the Organization’s “global focal point for hate speech”, her Office will continue to prioritize UN response efforts, both online and off.
“We need action that addresses the impact hate speech has on those targeted and more broadly on society from a prevention perspective. We also need to ensure that we address its root causes by promoting inclusion, non-discrimination and protecting civil space,” she said.
Some of the crucial work carried out so far has involved strengthening partnerships, including with the sports world, tech and social media companies, traditional religious leaders, civil society and young people.
Ms. Nderitu also highlighted the value of country-led efforts, including through regional initiatives, which “continues to be crucial if we are to turn the tide on (hate speech).”
Coexistence, dialogue and respect
Morocco spearheaded efforts that led to the 2021 UN General Assembly resolution that established the International Day.
For Nasser Bourita, the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, it represents “a real call to action to face up to this insidious scourge, which undermines peace, stability and development and undermines human dignity and human rights.”
He said Morocco has always prioritized the values of coexistence, dialogue, respect for religions and beliefs, pluralism, and diversity.
Mr. Bourita also highlighted some of the Government’s initiatives in this regard.
For example, he said amid a surge in anti-immigrant and anti-refugee hate speech elsewhere, his country has instead endorsed the values of acceptance, coexistence and integration “which have earned Morocco its status as a welcoming land for many African, European, Asian and Middle Eastern nationals.”