UN designates June 18 to rally youth against hate speech

H.E. Ghada Hatim Eltahir, Representative of United Nations Secretary-General and the Resident Coordinator in the State of Kuwait, calls for unified efforts to combat hate speech.

• “Young people today are at the forefront of digital innovation and possess the skills and knowledge to use technology for good. By creating and sharing content that promotes tolerance, understanding, and acceptance, they can counter the negative narratives that fuel hate speech,” said António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General.

• Education is crucial for equipping youth to counter hate speech. Schools, universities, and online platforms must prioritize teaching critical thinking, empathy, and respect for others.

In a world experiencing an accelerating pace of political, economic, military, social, and ideological conflicts, a ripple effect has emerged. Ethnic and cultural crises, along with displacement movements, erupt both within and beyond conflict zones. These tensions strain social structures and systems, amplifying the perception of economic and demographic threats. Media discourses further exacerbate the situation, simultaneously supporting conflicts and inciting divisions and hatred.

This reality coincides with a revolutionary acceleration in the field of digital platforms. These platforms provide easy access to wide segments of recipients for various discourses, messages, news, and the ideas and trends they contain. These elements can reshape the intellectual, mental, and emotional systems of the recipients, especially among young people.

Such discourses are often driven by the underlying tensions of political, social, or economic conflicts, as well as religious, sectarian, and ethnic clashes. The level and nature of the conflict affect the intensity of the discourses, ranging from internal conflicts to regional multi-directional clashes, or even international conflicts that reshape alignments on economic, ideological, or other bases.

These conflicts and accompanying media messages create different patterns of waves of hatred against others. This makes the human climate more critical, widens the gaps between peoples, and reduces the areas of convergence, agreement, and unity even within the same national components.

In recognition of the dangers hate speech creates in societies and between peoples, the United Nations has designated June 18 of each year to combat hate speech. This is a top priority in our efforts to create a more convergent, tolerant, united, and harmonious world among the various components of society.

This occasion is a valuable opportunity. It allows us to enhance the #NoHate campaign across all media and digital platforms. We can focus on the role of young people in combating hate speech and make it an urgent issue that requires our attention, awareness, and collective action.

Hate speech has become a growing global crisis, with young people being disproportionately affected. They often find themselves at the center of this digital storm, and the harmful effects can lead to psychological distress and trauma, social divisions, and, in extreme cases, violence.

On this occasion, António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, said, “Since young people are often the most affected by hate speech, especially online, they must be part of the solution. The participation of young people, especially young girls and women, and young people with disabilities, is essential to create hate-free public and online spaces.”

These words highlight the need to involve young people in our efforts to combat hate speech. Young people are not just passive recipients; they are dynamic agents of change and have the potential to make real progress. Their voices, creativity, and efforts are essential to maintaining a more inclusive, respectful, and supportive community for dialogue.

We cannot overlook the crucial role of education in providing young people with the tools they need to recognize and counter hate speech. It is important that schools, universities, and online educational platforms prioritize teaching critical thinking, empathy, and respect for others. By promoting these values, we can empower young people to reject hatred and respect differences in race, religion, nationality, color, or culture.

Young people today are at the forefront of digital innovation and possess the skills and knowledge to use technology for good. By creating and sharing content that promotes tolerance, understanding, and acceptance, they can counter the negative narratives that fuel hate speech. They can lead campaigns on social media, produce digital stories for children or young people, and form online communities dedicated to spreading positive messages.

It is also essential to ensure that underrepresented groups, especially young girls and women and young people with disabilities, are involved in these efforts. Their unique perspectives and experiences can enrich initiatives to combat hate speech and ensure that no one is left behind. Comprehensive strategies and diverse voices are essential building blocks for more cohesive, harmonious, and compassionate societies.

Governments, civil society, and the private sector also have an important role to play. They need to collaborate to support young people’s efforts, which include strengthening policies that protect freedom of expression while reducing the spread of hate speech. Investing in the creation of safe online spaces is crucial. Educational programs delivered through sports and cultural youth centers can further ensure concerted efforts in this direction.

Media platforms themselves also have a significant responsibility. They must enforce laws that prevent the spread of hate speech and actively promote positive dialogue.

Ultimately, the responsibility lies with all of us. We must work together to strengthen the #NoHate campaign and support youth-led initiatives. By doing so, we can create a society where respect, empathy, and acceptance of others prevail.

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