Keynote Remarks of H.E. Mr. Miguel Ángel Moratinos
High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC)
74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
High-Level Round Table on “Countering Hate Speech”
Co-Sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Turkey and Pakistan to the UN
United Nations Headquarters, Conference Room 12, 25 September 2019
Allow me first to thank the co-sponsors of today’s event:
H.E. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey, for taking the lead on this topic. I also wish to express my gratitude to Your Excellency for your governments consistent financial and political support for the Alliance since its inception.
And H.E. Mr. Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Thank you for convening this critical discussion about hate speech today.
Around the world, we have witnessed an outpouring of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, hate speech, and hatred.
In his book “The shipwreck of civilizations,” author Amin Maalouf has argued that this phenomenon is rooted in the “hate of oneself,” a dangerous form of hatred against the “other” that provides the perpetrators with short-lived solace from their own frustrations.
A number of political leaders around the globe have also contributed to fueling this phenomenon by bringing hate-fueled ideas and language into the mainstream, normalizing them, distorting the public discourse and weakening the social fabric of our societies.
Hate speech is in itself an attack on tolerance, inclusion, diversity, and the very essence of our human rights. It undermines social cohesion and lays the foundation for violence.
History has shown that hate speech is a precursor to atrocity crimes, including genocide – many examples from the past and from today that are way too familiar.
In today’s world, the situation is even more dangerous by the ever-evolving media landscape that has enabled and amplified hateful views and rhetoric through digital technology, often targeting the most vulnerable communities. Extremists gather online and radicalize their recruits.
More recently, hate speech has been strongly linked with violence and killings in several regions of the world, including attacks on religious sites in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, and here in the United States. Places of worship have become terror scenes instead of havens of peace and compassion.
In that context, I commend Turkey for taking the lead in sponsoring with Qatar General Assembly Resolution A/Res/73/285 on April 2nd this year on combatting terrorism and other acts of violence based on religion which also recalls that that all States have pledged themselves, under the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.
Governments and technology companies alike are struggling to prevent and respond to orchestrated online hate speech. But we cannot give up. We all – the United Nations, Member States, technology companies, and other key stakeholders – need to step up our response, and prevent and counter this dangerous phenomenon.
Let me add that, while digital technology has provided new areas in which hate speech can thrive, it can also help monitor activity, target our response, and build support for counter-narratives.
Addressing hate speech does not mean limiting freedom of speech. The United Nations supports all human rights, including the freedom to seek, receive, and spread information and ideas of all kinds, as set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right. Media is one of the main four pillars of the Alliance. The High Level Group in their 2006 report stated that objective reporting and the presentation of a diversity of perspectives are needed to prevent stereotypes and misrepresentations from blocking the flow of reliable information.
Addressing hate speech means keeping hate speech from escalating into more dangerous spheres, particularly incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence, which is prohibited under international law.
In this context, the Secretary-General Mr. António Guterres has taken concrete action by launching a UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech in June.
More recently, on 12 September, he also launched a UN Plan of Action for the Safeguard of Religious Sites, which I developed with my office at the UN Alliance of Civilizations.
The 2 new UN documents complement each other and aim at coordinating efforts across the UN system to identify, prevent and confront the issues of hate speech and violence against religious sites and the faithful, using all the means in our power.
They aim to enhance our efforts to address the root causes of hatred and violence, in line with the UN Secretary-General’s prevention agenda. They also provide guidance for the United Nations to respond effectively to violent incidents.
The two documents are meant to go beyond New York and include ways in which Country Teams and Missions around the world can take action and engage Governments, civil society, the private sector and other partners.
Moreover, there are other frameworks and initiatives taken by state and non-state actors that include viable recommendations that will help us prevent and counter hate speech so that the tragical terrors attacks in Christchurch, Srilanka and Pittsburg and elsewhere does not happen again. The Christchurch Call to Action to eliminate terrorist content online and the measures taken by France and New Zealand are positive steps, but our work is far from being done.
As we speak about the issue of hate speech today, let us remember that people across the globe have also shown that they value our common humanity.
We have witnessed extraordinary displays of support, love, and solidarity from people, including faith communities across the globe for the victims of hate speech and hateful attacks against houses of worship and worshippers.
This solidarity is a spark of light amid the darkness, and a sign of hope that we need to carry with us as we endeavor to combat the evils of hatred and intolerance.
In this time of difficulties and divisions, we must stand together and protect one another.
Yes, we all have different faiths, beliefs, cultures, and histories, but we are all connected by our shared humanity.
I thank the sponsors of today’s event again, and I thank you all for joining us.