Secretary-General Launches United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action against Hate Speech, Designating Special Adviser on Genocide Prevention as Focal Point

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres launched the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech today, as he delivered an informal briefing to Member States.

The purpose of the Strategy is to deepen understanding on the part of all United Nations entities about the insidious impact of hate speech and how they can more effectively address it in their work.  It calls for stronger support to Member States, as well as stronger engagement with private companies, civil society and media.  The Strategy also provides ideas on how to address the root causes and drivers of hate speech and how to reduce its impact on societies.

“Hate speech is, in itself, an attack on tolerance, inclusion, diversity and the very essence of our human rights norms and principles,” the Secretary-General said during the briefing.  “More broadly, it undermines social cohesion, erodes shared values and can lay the foundation for violence, setting back the cause of peace, stability, sustainable development and the fulfilment of human rights for all.”

He recalled that, over the past 75 years, the world has seen hate speech as a precursor to atrocity crimes, including genocide, from Rwanda to Bosnia [and Herzegovina] to Cambodia.  More recently, it has been strongly linked with violence, resulting in mass killings in several parts of the world, including the Central African Republic, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and the United States, he said, noting that Governments and technology companies alike are struggling to prevent and respond to orchestrated online hate.

Mr. Guterres stressed:  “As new channels for hate speech are reaching wider audiences than ever before and at lightning speed, we all — the United Nations, Governments, technology companies, educational institutions — need to step up our responses.”

Adama Dieng, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, added:  “In line with the long-standing United Nations commitment to the protection, promotion and implementation of all international human rights standards, the Strategy and Plan of Action never calls for restrictions of freedom of expression and opinion to address hate speech.  By contrast, it adopts a holistic approach that aims at tackling the whole life cycle of hate speech, from its roots causes to its impact on societies.  It also considers more speech — alternative, positive and counternarratives — to be the answer to hate speech.”

Mr. Dieng said that, in order to strengthen United Nations support to Member States, the Secretary-General intends to convene a conference on the role of education in addressing and building resilience against hate speech.  He added that the Secretary-General designated him as Focal Point for implementation of the Strategy and Plan of Action, a capacity in which the Special Adviser will oversee and facilitate the development of more specific guidance on implementation.

For questions on the launch of the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, please contact Simona Cruciani at email:  cruciani@un.org, or tel.:  +1 917 367 5430.

For information media. Not an official record.