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NHRIs urged to counter rise in hate speech

Graphic: The 2019 APF Biennial Conference, held in Seoul, Korea

The High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted the threat posed by the dramatic rise in hate speech in an address to the APF Biennial Conference.

Asia Pacific Forum LogoAsia Pacific Forum

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has highlighted the threat to individuals and communities posed by the dramatic rise in hate speech in a video address to the APF Biennial Conference.

Ms Bachelet said that every society grappled with racism, xenophobia against migrants, and discrimination against women and LGBTI people.

However, she said the problem of hate speech has become even more pronounced because of social media.

"Technology is transforming not only the delivery of hate speech and people's access to it, but also its content and the scope of its political influence," Ms Bachelet said.

"I encourage all NHRIs to develop tools for monitoring hate speech, and to work with all kinds of media to prevent its proliferation."


All of us share a common interest to create inclusive societies that both embrace and celebrate the variety of social and cultural differences of the world's peoples.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Logo Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

The APF Biennial Conference – held in Seoul on 5 September 2019 – brought together more than 250 participants from across the region, including from 27 national human rights institutions, leading civil society organisation, governments and UN agencies.

Speakers explored the theme of combating hate and discrimination, described by the President of the Red Cross in Korea, Dr Kyong-Seo Park, as "one of the most difficult yet critical challenges of our times".

Mrs Jung Kang-ja, Co-Chairperson of the People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, examined the impact of hate speech and discrimination on women, along with the role NHRIs, government and civil society to address misogyny and violence in all its forms.

APF members – including the NHRIs of Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Qatar and New Zealand, among others – described the corrosive impact of hate speech and discrimination on vulnerable groups, including migrants, religious minorities and LGBTI people.


Graphic: Presenters at the APF Biennial Conference


A common theme across all the discussions was the need to build partnerships in order to better counter the community attitudes that frame these groups as "outsiders".

In addition, NHRIs can use different aspects of their mandate – including investigating complaints, monitoring and reporting, advocacy for changes to laws and policies, and engaging with the international human rights system – to promote and protect the rights of groups who are vulnerable to attacks and persecution.

In her concluding remarks, APF Chairperson Emeritus Professor Rosalind Croucher highlighted the importance of building a strong and forward-looking human rights culture.

"The collective challenge is to … not see human rights as 'foreign'," Professor Rosalind said, noting that decency, compassion, respect and dignity were not 'foreign' concepts in any country in the Asia Pacific.

Presentations from the APF Biennial Conference, hosted by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, are available on the APF website.

The 24th APF Annual Meeting was held on 3-4 September 2019, in the lead up to the Biennial Conference.

Date: 17 September 2019


Image credits

  1. The 2019 APF Biennial Conference, held in Seoul, Korea - National Human Rights Commission of Korea
  2. Presenters at the APF Biennial Conference - National Human Rights Commission of Korea