The United Nations plans to scale up its response to hate speech, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday as he warned against a rising tide of xenophobia, including antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred.
“Hate speech is a menace to democratic values, social stability and peace,” Guterres said as he spoke at the opening of the month-long UN Human Rights Council’s 40th session in Geneva. “We are seeing a ground swell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, including rising antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred.”
Hate speech has spread “like wildfire through social media, the Internet, and conspiracy theories. It is abetted by a public discourse that stigmatizes women, minorities, migrants and refugees.”
“Hate is moving into the mainstream in liberal democracies and authoritarian states alike,” Guterres continued. “Political parties and leaders are cutting and pasting ideas from the fringes into their own propaganda and their campaigns. Parties once rightly considered pariahs are gaining influence over governments. With each broken norm, the pillars of humanities are weakened.”
“We have seen how the debate on human mobility has been poisoned with false narratives, linking refugees and migrants to terrorism and scapegoating them for many of society’s ills,” Guterres said.
The UN is in the middle of preparing a global plan of actions to combat hate speech. On March 18, the UNHRC will debate seven reports against Israel, under Agenda Item 7.
The UNHRC is mandated to debate Israeli alleged human rights violations under Agenda Item 7 during every session. Israel is the only country with such a standing mandate. Charges of human rights abuses against all other countries are debated under Agenda Item 4.
As in past years, the UN will hear more reports against Israel than against any other country.
The UNHRC had initially said that at this session it would publish for the first time its controversial database on companies doing businesses with areas of Israel over the pre-1967 lines.
Israel has worked behind the scenes to prevent the publication of the database. The UNHRC is also expected to debate Israeli actions against Palestinian rioters along its border fence with Gaza. The protests have taken place as part of the Hamas-led “March of Return.” More than 220 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops at the protests, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.