UN HRC37: Oral statement on promoting tolerance and combatting racial discrimination

ARTICLE 19 pays tribute to the life of Marielle Franco, an outspoken human rights defender and advocate against racial and gender-based discrimination and violence; she was murdered with her driver in Rio de Janeiro last week. We call for justice for them both, and measures taken to address systemic impunity for attacks against human rights defenders and others targeted for their expression in Brazil.

Franco’s resolve cannot be extinguished: it reflects that of so many who stand up for the marginalised and speak out against populist hate, also at great risk to their own safety. All governments must end impunity, and lift unjustified restrictions on civic space, if our efforts to combat racial discrimination are to have their fullest impact.

This debate’s positive emphasis on inclusion and diversity speaks to the mutually reinforcing relationship between the rights to freedom of expression and equality. Both rights must be protected to tackle what the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called “the mainstreaming of hate”, which is increasingly peddled by nationalists stoking anti-immigrant sentiment.

Populist demagogues, whether Victor Orban or Donald Trump, are not champions for freedom of expression, in particular for inclusion and diversity. They share in common a desire to attack free and independent media, and react with calls for censorship, and even incitement to violence, against anyone who contradicts them or exposes their lies, in particular when those persons do not look like them.

Mr. President,

A new ARTICLE 19 guide launched during this session, “tackling hate: action on UN standards to promote inclusion, diversity and pluralism,” sets out how international human rights standards, like the Rabat Plan of Action, provide a practical set of legal and policy measures to address this phenomenon.

These standards make clear that State-imposed restrictions on expression must be exceptional, warning that over-broad incitement laws are often abused to silence the very minorities they should protect. They also make clear the inclusivity, and political participation, are essential to Sustainable Development.

Existing international human rights law is in our view sufficient to respond to the contemporary challenges of racial discrimination, including in the digital context, and at the same time we stress that any “complementary standards” developed to supplement existing treaty obligations must comply with existing international human rights law, including on freedom of expression: our focus must be on implementation.

We ask the panellists in what ways the Internet is important for people to speak out against racial discrimination, and also how digital exclusion may disproportionately impact minorities and exacerbate structural discrimination?

To the Ambassador of Singapore, we ask, how racial discrimination against migrants and refugees intersects with discrimination on grounds of religion or belief? How could an enhanced Istanbul Process further national efforts for greater inclusion, diversity, and pluralism?