Tackling Hate: Action on UN standards to promote inclusion, diversity and pluralism

“Nationalists are once again stirring up discrimination, hatred and violence against vulnerable scapegoats, seeking to profit from messages of ethnic or religious supremacy […] International human rights law is being violated and undermined.”

This is what the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned in early 2018, as hateful and discriminatory rhetoric around the world appears to have become increasingly normalised. This pattern of “hate being mainstreamed” is a problem compounded by increasing limitations on civic space, where restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of the media, protest and association, online as well as offline, prevent pluralism and diverse public debate. Shrinking civic space not only restricts the voices of minority groups and those subject to hateful rhetoric, but importantly it limits the freedom of all people to speak out to counter this “hate speech”, discrimination and violence.

Since intolerance is more likely to flourish in environments where human rights are not respected, responses to it must be grounded in respect for international human rights law, driven by the understanding that the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and equality, are mutually dependent and reinforcing. Promoting inclusion, diversity and pluralism is the best prevention and response to intolerance: more speech is needed to tackle hate.

This briefing, now in its Third Edition, explores how States and other stakeholders should respond to rising levels of intolerance and hate in societies in all parts of the world, by taking action on UN standards to promote inclusion, diversity and pluralism.

The Third Edition takes a closer look at the gender dimensions of hate, including hate based on religion or belief, in particular its disproportionate and differential impacts on women and LGBTQ people. It further examines connections to UN standards on racist hate speech, and hatred against migrants, which often intersect with other forms of discrimination, including on the basis of religion or belief. Moreover, it contends with actions from States and business enterprises, in particular social media companies, to tackle hate online.

Setting out the foundations of States’ international human rights law obligations for promoting inclusion, diversity and pluralism, as well as the numerous action plans and commitments in place to guide States, it shows how States and other actors can effectively tackle hate while promoting and protecting the mutually reinforcing rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief, and equality. These UN standards and commitments provide a means to tackle the growing phenomena of hate and intolerance, both for governments and civil society.

Implementing these standards and engaging with relevant UN mechanisms is key to promoting inclusion, diversity and pluralism at the national and local levels.

Read the briefing

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