In the recent past, we have witnessed disturbing instances of racism, xenophobia, and intolerance – among them persecution of Christians, anti-Semitism, and anti-Muslim hatred. Social media platforms are being used to perpetrate such hatred.
We are seeing a situation where hate speech is becoming commonplace in liberal democracies as well as authoritarian systems. Hate speech is unacceptable in a democratic society and social stability. As such, the United Nations has a responsibility to tackle hate speech at every opportunity.
Addressing hate speech is part of the United Nation’s mandate when it comes to deepening progress and preventing armed conflict, terrorism, and atrocity crimes. It is important to understand that tackling hate speech is not equal to limiting freedom of speech. It is about preventing hate speech from turning into something dangerous, especially hostility and violence.
The United Nations has always been at the forefront to mobilize nations across the world against all forms of hatred. I am afraid that we have reached a critical point in history where we need to tackle this demon head-on. Together with my team, we have come up with an action plan to try and resolve these issues before it gets out of hand.
What is hate speech?
There is no one single and acceptable global definition of hate speech. But for the sake of this document, the word hate speech can be described as any form of communication in behavior, writing, or speech that attacks or used discriminatory or pejorative language in reference to a person or group based on who they are.
Instead of prohibiting hate speech parse, international laws forbid incitement to hostility, discrimination, and violence. International law doesn’t require countries to prohibit hate speech that doesn’t meet the incitement threshold.
The effects of hate speech affect almost all current United Nations areas of focus including prevention of atrocity crime, protection of human rights, counter-terrorism, fight against extremism, addressing of gender-based violence, protection of refugees, fight against racism sustaining peace, protection of minority groups among others.
The strategy and plan of action by the UN on hate speech are aimed at giving the United nations room as well as resources to tackle hate speech. Measure to be taken will be in tandem with the norms of international human rights, specifically the rights to freedom of expression and opinion.
There are two main objectives:
• Enhance the efforts of the UN to fight the root causes of hate speech
• Enable the UN to act decisively on hate speech around the world
Below are the principles that will guide the strategy:
1. The strategy will be implemented in light of the right to freedom of speech and opinion.
2. Addressing hate speech is the duty of all governments, the private sector, societies, and every individual man and woman.
3. The UN should assist a new generation of you people and empower them on the dangers of hate speech
4. There’s a need to understand better in order to offer effective solutions to hate speech.
Monitoring and analyzing hate speech
Respective UN bodies should be in positions to identify, monitor, gather information, and analyze trends of hate speech.
Addressing root causes
The UN should come up with a common understanding with regards to the root causes of hate speech for them to take appropriate action. Respective UN bodies should also pinpoint and offer support to those who challenge hate speech.
Engaging and giving support to those affected by hate speech
UN bodies entities should come in solidarity with groups or individuals affected by hate speech. They should also implement measures aimed at countering retaliatory hate speech. The entities should also ensure that the victims’ rights are upheld while addressing their needs.
Bringing together relevant actors
The United Nations should arrange for conferences involving primary actors, redefine problems in a manner that makes solutions more attainable as well as bring on board different parties for mediation.
Engaging with new and conventional media
The United Nations should create and strengthen collaborations with new and conventional media to tackle hate speech narratives and encourage values of tolerance, non-discrimination, and freedom of speech and opinion.
The use of technology
UN agencies should adapt to technological innovations and promote research on the connection between the internet and social media use in spreading hate speech as well as factors that drive individuals to engage in hate speech.
The use of education to tackle hate speech
The UN should use formal education as a tool to address hate speech through the implementation of ADG4. This will promote values and skills and a global level and enhance information literacy.
Engaging in advocacy
The United Nation should also use advocacy, in public and private to create awareness about hate speech trends and to show sympathy and support to victims of hate speech.
Providing guidance for external communication
Communication should be used in such a way that addresses, counters, and mitigates the effects of hate speech. The mode of communication should also counteract its bearing without necessarily infringing on the right of opinion and expression.
The United Nation should create and strengthen partnerships with stakeholders including those in the tech industry. It is a fact that most of the vital actions against hate speech cannot be implemented by the UN alone. It will require support from governments, multilateral organizations, media, private companies, civil societies, and religious groups.
Empowering the UN staff
The UN should build the skills and knowledge of its staff to equip them properly in order to understand and address hate speech. This includes organizing seminars and training on hate speech regularly.
Supporting member states
The United Nations should, upon request offer support to member states in the area of capacity building as well as policy development to deal with hate speech. In this particular context, the UN should organize and facilitate an international conference on education and prevention of hate speech. This will be an opportunity to tackle the issue of hate speech on a global scale and encourage member states to carry on with the fight against hate speech in their respective countries.