Advocacy statements

Positive Responses to Hate and Intolerance

  • Date / 2024
  • Location / Greece
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights

Humanists International

55th Session of the UN Human Rights Council (26 February to 5 April 2024)

General Debate on Item 3

Speaker: Leon Langdon

Thank you Mr President,

We are deeply concerned by the rising instances of hate and intolerance across the world. Amidst increasing political turmoil, hatred against minorities and the marginalized is taking root, driven by countless factors – including a rise in far right populism, nationalism, fundamentalism and identity politics, as well as the media and social media algorithms amplifying and distorting narratives for clicks and profit. In every region, we see opportunistic leaders promoting policies to fracture society and dehumanize. Religious- and ethno-nationalism is us-ed pervasively to build exclusionary identities and discriminatory policies, promoting hate and intolerance.

The Special Rapporteur on the right to Freedom of Religion or Belief and the High Commissioner have outlined several steps needed to combat hate; including intercommunity dialogue,[1] positive counterspeech,[2] and education initiatives,[3] as well as outlawing speech which amounts to incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.[4]

Relatedly, we are concerned that what was once established international law is now under threat from actors seeking to use this Council as a vehicle to legitimize blasphemy laws.[5] Multiple UN instruments and experts have highlighted that the criminalization of blasphemy leads to the direct and structural marginalization of minority communities,[6] and can actually bring about more violence than that which they seek to stop, as these laws are weaponized for both personal and political gain.[7]

We urge the Council to continue tackling hatred in a way which is in line with international law, and protects minorities and their right to expression from persecution by the majority and those in power

Thank you.

[1] https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/55/74 [Para 59]; https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/55/47 [Paras. 48, 49, 51]

[2] https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/55/74 [Para 64]; https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/55/47 [Para 39]

[3] https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/55/74 [Para 64]; https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/55/47 [Para 52]

[4] https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/55/74 [Paras. 59, 61, 62]; https://undocs.org/en/A/HRC/55/47 [Paras. 21-28]; https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements-and-speeches/2024/03/turks-global-update-human-rights-council; https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2023/09/turk-human-rights-are-antidote-prevailing-politics-distraction-deception;

[5] https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2021/03/historic-consensus-freedoms-religion-and-expression-risk-say-un-experts; https://humanists.international/2023/07/un-passes-contested-resolution-condemning-desecration-of-sacred-books-and-religious-symbols/

[6] https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2017/10/un-expert-urges-global-repeal-blasphemy-laws-boost-religious-freedom; https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2019/03/un-expert-urges-states-protect-mutually-reinforcing-freedoms-expression-and; https://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/gc34.pdf [Para 48]

[7] https://end-blasphemy-laws.org/whats-wrong-with-blasphemy-laws/; https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2021/03/historic-consensus-freedoms-religion-and-expression-risk-say-un-experts; https://humanists.international/what-we-do/advocacy/issues/

Suggested academic reference

'Positive Responses to Hate and Intolerance', Humanists International

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