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May 17, 2023

Global Launch Event for the Policy Guide “Addressing Hate Speech through Education”

On March 27, Dr. Clara Ramirez-Barat, Director of the Warren Educational Policies Program (WEPP), participated in the launch event of the guide Addressing Hate Speech through Education. The event introduced a new tool for policymakers and educators to tackle hate speech in and through education, both online and offline, and was organized by the United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect (OSAPG) and the UNESCO Education Sector, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Education of Costa Rica, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica, and the UN Resident Coordinator Office of Costa Rica at the University of Peace in San Jose. A video of the launch event is available on the UNESCO YouTube channel.

Hate speech has spread faster and further than ever before due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic,  the increased use of social media, and the global rise of extremist ideologies. Education plays a central role in countering hateful narratives and preventing the emergence of group-targeted violence.  Addressing Hate Speech Through Education investigates educational responses and provides guidance and recommendations to policymakers on strengthening education systems to counter dangerous speech. This initiative is part of the coordinated action developed by the United Nations in the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, launched on June 18th, 2019, by Secretary-General António Guterres.

The event featured discussion panels attended by Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant-Director General for Education, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, AIPG alumna and the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, as well as the Education and Foreign Affairs Ministers from Costa Rica and experts in the field.

Dr. Ramirez-Barat was part of the advisory group that contributed to the elaboration of the guide and  joined the panel for a session that explored how to harness the power of education to counter hate speech. During her presentation, Dr. Ramirez-Barat highlighted the importance of recognizing that while addressing the hate speech movement requires more than an educational approach, it is impossible to build a response that does not include education as a key element. Drawing from her experience with education as a tool to prevent violence, she argued that incorporating classroom instruction on past violence is a sign of political maturity and commitment to citizenship and the future of a country. Dr. Ramirez–Barat explains:

As the guide shows, the world is going through a very challenging time. We are witnessing increased attacks against vulnerable groups, weakened frameworks for protecting human rights, democratic backsliding, and the rise of social inequalities, inciting citizens' feelings of impotence over their future. Factors such as the COVID-19 crisis, environmental degradation, and the growing exposure to diversity, reinforced by the consumption of conspiracy theories and misinformation on social media, have fueled the growth of reactionary and globally organized political movements that, by simplifying the reality and manipulating it, are presented as a response to people's problems, promoting exclusive narratives, social polarization, and spreading fear and hatred of difference.

The launch of the Combating Hate Speech Through Education guide does not imply that the response is simple. On the contrary, Dr. Ramirez-Barat also stresses that this urgent matter demands a multidimensional approach, from curriculum reforms and pedagogical practices to teacher training and assessment. Similarly, the strategy must also be multi-sectoral, engaging different government agencies, civil society, multilateral organizations, and young people and educators.

A recorded video is available on the UNESCO YouTube channel.

Sheri P. Rosenberg

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