UNITED Conference near Bratislava, Slovakia, between 17 and 22 November 2019.
Description of the conference
Hate speech is more than words: it affects those who experience it, their friends and family, and the society as a whole. It is causing deep concern all over the world, including in European countries.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right, and we believe that it needs to be strongly protected and promoted.
To strengthen an open and democratic society, we need dialogue, and spaces where everyone can participate freely. However, we currently observe that hate speech exists in these spaces, harming people, causing fear among those who are subjected to it, and causing people to withdraw from the public space. As a result, important voices are silenced in the public debate. Some people are afraid to participate in public choices and elections, which is an evident threat to the democratic mechanisms.
Hate speech is not a new phenomenon, but with the increasing popularity of the Internet and social media, the amount and intensity of hate speech has risen. It is commonly seen as a global threat that touches many spaces and quickly develops, paradoxically thanks to the freedoms that we enjoy in our democratic societies. Everyday, in both online and offline spaces, many people are insulted, offended, ridiculed and even threatened with violence. Not because of their views, but simply because of their belonging to a targeted social group.
The idea of the No Hate Speech Movement (NHSM) came from the youth representatives in the Joint Council on Youth of the Council of Europe following the Oslo attacks and Utøya massacre that took 77 lives in Norway on 22 July 2012. Its aim was to raise awareness of the issue of online hate speech. Launched in March 2013, the movement still has national campaigns all across Europe involving young people online and offline. Its main purpose was to take action against hate speech.
The NHSM campaign was designed to reduce the levels of tolerance to online hate speech online and offline, seeking
- to prevent and counter hate speech through human rights education,
- to raise awareness about the risks hate speech poses for democracy and for young people’s well-being,
- to develop and disseminate tools and mechanisms for reporting hate speech.
The NHSM has concluded its European coordination in 2018. The Committee of Ministers, the decision-making body of the Council of Europe, recently acknowledged the achievements and lessons learned of the four-year No Hate Speech Movement campaign as a whole.
The legacy of this fruitful and ambitious initiative is worth to be developed and strengthened further, and an open and wide involvement of players can make this happen!
The aim of this UNITED Conference was to involve and empower different civil society organisations, schools, sport organisations and local, regional and national authorities. Through their involvement, different types of activities can be organised, reaching many young people in the European community.
For this reason, UNITED had decided to invite activists from all over Europe, in order to build the basis of a renewed and common strategy to fight hate speech and to share the vision of a society where freedom of expression and democratic life is not threatened by hate speech online and offline.
What could you expect?
UNITED aims to create a space to learn about hate speech, the contexts in which it takes place, and how it can be tackled successfully. For this reason, the conference included:
- Panel discussions with media experts that will help deepen understandings on the relation between hate speech in traditional and new mass media.
- Workshops to gain experience in fighting online and offline hate speech, helping the participants to better develop existing tools and good practices.
- Focal working groups on activism, advocacy, education and community building to think about the future and legacies of the No Hate Speech Movement in Europe.
Find a detailed conference report, along with photos, here.