Hate speech is on the rise worldwide, with the potential to incite violence, undermine social cohesion and tolerance, and cause psychological, emotional and physical harm based on xenophobia, racism, antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of intolerance and discrimination (UN, 2020). History has shown us that genocide and other atrocity crimes begin with words – there is a collective responsibility to address hate speech in the present day to prevent further violence in the future.
In June 2019, UN Secretary-General António Guterres launched a strategy to enhance the United Nations response to the global phenomenon of hate speech. As part of the implementation of the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, the Secretary-General called upon UNESCO in partnership with the United Nations Office on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect (OSAPG) to convene the Global Education Ministers Conference on addressing hate speech through education to be held on 26 October 2021. The Conference will be informed by the first Global multi-stakeholder Forum on addressing hate speech through education, which was held on 30 September and 1 October 2021.
In this context, education can play a fundamental role to address hatred both on- and offline, and help to counter the emergence of group-targeted violence. Strengthening educational responses to build the resilience of learners to exclusionary rhetoric and hate speech also lies at the core of the Education 2030 Agenda, and more specifically Target 4.7 of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4), which touches on the social, moral and humanistic purposes of education.