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2020: A year to act against hate speech

"Political, civil, economic, cultural and social rights are severely under attack around the world", said Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC) Chair Mô Bleeker in her New Year message.

"Prevention means by essence the reinforcement of human rights, good governance and international law". This is particularl relevant regarding the prevention of hate speech, incitement and discrimination.

Indeed, history has shown that long before the commission of atrocities such as the Holocaust and genocides in Rwanda and Srebrenica, a consistent progression of hate speech and incitement against specific groups, combined with discrimination measures, and growing hostility and violence took place. Today, political leaders in some countries, notably in the Western Hemisphere and in Europe, are adopting, or even mainstreaming hate-fuelled rhetoric in public discourses. By doing so, individuals and some groups feel encouraged to widespread hate speech and racism, commit violence, and request or directly practice discriminatory measures against specific groups.

New technologies and social media platforms may serve as amplifiers. For example in 2017, the example of Facebook massively used to spread hate and incite anti-Rohingya sentiment and violence in Myanmar, is now well documented.

Hate speech is a serious indicator along the path that leads towards atrocities. As all man-made calamities, experience shows that when addressed early enough through pertinent prevention policies, it is possible to contain it or to stop it. Even better, prevention initiatives may have positive consequences for our democracies, as they are based on the principles of the common good, constitutional rights, protect and strengthen democratic values. Addressing hate speech requires a coordinated response from governments and civil society, in particular the private sector.

GAAMAC will organize its fourth Global meeting (GAAMAC IV) from 17 to 19 November 2020 in The Hague, Netherlands. It will convene relevant actors to address hate speech, discrimination and incitement with the overall aim to strengthen prevention efforts at national, regional and global levels. GAAMAC IV offers a unique opportunity to better understand this crucial issue, share good practices and jointly learn from experiences on the ground to strengthen national mechanisms, notably in the Western Hemisphere, where there is a growing and urgent need to seriously deal with these issues.

During GAAMAC IV, several GAAMAC regional initiatives (Africa, Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe) will share the results of their work and equip participants engaged in atrocity prevention on the ground. For example, the Asia Pacific study group is currently working on a policy report on preventing hate speech, incitement and discrimination which includes case studies on India, Myanmar and the Philippines. The report contains practical recommendations for state, non-state and multilateral actors. During GAAMAC IV, exchange on this regional report will allow to expand this report, by including elements from other continents.

Many members of the GAAMAC community of commitment have already accumulated experiences in addressing hate speech, incitement and discrimination at national, regional and international levels. The prevention platform GAAMAC enables actors and practitioners around the world to inform each other about their ongoing practice; see GAAMAC’s latest newsletter.

Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC) is a community of commitment composed of states, civil society and academic institutions pledging to prevent atrocities by establishing national prevention mechanisms and policies. 

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