Wednesday, 04 March 2020 10:56

Introduction by Alice Walpole, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, At an event on Hate Speech in the presence of Under Secretary-General Adama Dieng 3 March 2020

Under Secretary-General Dieng,
Distinguished guests and colleagues,

Welcome to this afternoon's discussion on combating hate speech. Thank you to the team in our Human Rights Office for taking the initiative to organise this event.

I am delighted that United Nations Under Secretary-General Adama Dieng, who is leading the UN’s global efforts to combat hate speech, is able to join us today as my co-chair. Mr Dieng has been the UN Secretary-General's Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide since September 2012. This is his second visit to Iraq in that role. He has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in human rights and international criminal justice, having previously served as the Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and as the Secretary-General of the International Commission of Jurists. He has worked on behalf of the United Nations in Haiti and Malawi; and was the driving force behind the establishment of the African Court on Human and People's Rights. Mr Dieng is here in Iraq at the invitation of our colleagues in UNITAD, the United Nations Investigative Team to promote Accountability for crimes committed by Da’esh – which has given us this excellent opportunity to hear his insights on the new United Nations global Strategy and Action Plan on hate speech.

The United Nations' focus on hate speech reflects deep concern about the growth worldwide of hate speech as a vehicle to express and transfer xenophobia, racism and intolerance. Tackling hate speech helps promote peaceful, inclusive societies; helps combat violence against women and minorities and other serious violations of human rights; and plays a key role in countering atrocity crimes and even terrorism. The UN aims to support its member states in addressing the root causes and drivers of hate speech and effectively responding to the impact of hate speech in society. Mr Dieng will speak further on that.

Here in Iraq, the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMI) has compiled its own action plan on combatting hate speech. We are mainstreaming measures to counter hate speech, in line with international human rights norms and standards, into our programmes and activities, working with local stakeholders and interlocutors. We are aware that the causes and drivers of hate speech in Iraq are many. They may include lack of peace and security; political competition and the sectarianism in Iraqi politics; unemployment and economic uncertainty; poor education; weaknesses in the rule of law; societal anxieties related to the loss of cultural values or terrorism or crime; as well as structural root causes of human rights violations, such as discrimination and inequalities between communities or between men and women.

In countering hate speech, we must nonetheless be careful to respect freedom of opinion and expression. Here in Iraq, we must work to prevent alleged concerns about hate speech being used to justify any limitation (or prohibition) of freedom of expression, a vital feature of a free and democratic society.

Some of you may be aware of UNAMI’s current activities to combat hate speech. Such activities are already a core aspect of many of our areas of operation, such as human rights protection; supporting sustainable peace and societal cohesion; countering terrorism and the spread of violent extremism; preventing and addressing gender-based violence; supporting free and fair electoral processes; protection and reintegration of the displaced and refuges; and protection of minorities. I see many opportunities ahead of us to expand these activities. As a few examples, as Iraq prepares for elections, we will be promoting a code of good conduct which will reject the use of hate speech in electoral campaigning. We have a project with young community activists to equip them to express their views, concerns and ideas in a peaceful and constructive manner. We hope to support efforts to strengthen the capacity of security forces to provide protection to communities in a manner that respects human rights, including protection from hate speech. We plan to use our partnerships with media organisations to promote the values of tolerance and non-discrimination. We will promote discussion on combatting hate speech as part of our consultations on women, peace and security, including in our support to the Second National Action Plan under UN Security Council resolution 1325.

Importantly, the UN recognises that much of the meaningful action to combat hate speech in Iraq must necessarily be undertaken by Iraqi actors, including the government. Our intention therefore is to engage in dialogue with our stakeholders - to shape activities and identify areas where we can offer targeted support to those working to counter hate speech. For that reason, thank you all very much for joining us today: I will be most interested to hear your thoughts and advice on how we can together combat hate speech in Iraq.

Thank you. I would now like to pass the floor to Under Secretary-General Dieng.

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