Promote youth prospects, UNESCO Director urges
To stop the radicalization of youth for violence, society needs to promote the prospects for young people online and offline, and especially freedom of expression.
This was core message emphasized by Guy Berger, UNESCO Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development, in his remarks at a side event held at the Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday.
UNESCO Geneva Liaison Office convened the discussion along with the Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations in Geneva, in collaboration with the Elaph newspaper.
Berger said that UNESCO’s integrated strategy to deal with radicalization could be assessed in terms of a three-part formula of “protect, prepare and promote prospects” for the youth.
Though freedom of expression is put under stress by the need to fight hate speech, the core right should be protected through subjecting any restrictions to tests of international standards, he said. “Restrictions have to meet the conditions of legality, necessity and legitimate purpose as set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” stated the Director.
Further, to keep restrictions to the minimum and exceptionally reserved for particularly dangerous speech, account should also be taken the six principles set out in the Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
On preparation, Berger said that steps were needed to ensure that young people were well prepared for when they were exposed to hateful content. “This highlights the importance of media and information literacy,” he said.
Giving particular attention to promoting life prospects for young people, the UNESCO Director called for an approach that included offline and online dimensions.
“It is absolutely key to promote the prospects for young people to choose and to shape their own multiple identities. For this, they need full freedom of expression as well as the benefit of social opportunities,” said the Director.
Also speaking on the panel was Ambassador Christian Guillermet Fernandez, Vice Director General for foreign policy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica. He urged a greater role for broad education in addressing the problem of youth radicalization.
Journalist Amir Taheri warned that legal steps to define hate speech could be a slippery slope towards censorship of media that was critical of government. He argued that much propaganda and hate speech came from state-owned media – citing examples of antisemitism and homophobia.
Prof. Priyanker Upadhyaya, Malaviya Centre for Peace Research, Banaras Hindu University, called for multicultural literacy to reduce phobias, racism and hatred to deal with what he called “the dilemma of freedom of expression”.
From Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mona Rishmawi - the Chief of Rule of Law, Equality and Non-Discrimination - said the problem was identifying the tipping point when expression could result in violent conduct.
The discussion was chaired by BBC journalist Imogen Foulkes, and the panel included Finnish ambassador Paivi Kairamo as well as Abdelaziz Almouzaini, Director of UNESCO’s Geneva Liaison Office.
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