IOM hosts a two-day panel and focus group discussion to unify voices on International Day for Countering Hate Speech
Islamabad, Pakistan — On the occasion of the International Day for Countering Hate Speech, IOM Pakistan organized a two-day panel discussion and focus group in Islamabad on 20 and 21 June 2023. The event aimed to raise awareness about hate speech, promote social cohesion and peaceful coexistence, and recognize the community champions who have tirelessly worked to combat hate speech in their respective communities.
Hate speech, in its various forms, can divide communities, incite violence, and undermine the fabric of our inclusive and diverse world. In response to the alarming trends of growing hatred around the world, the UN General Assembly, in 2021, adopted a resolution proclaiming 18 June as the International Day for Countering Hate Speech. The day serves as a reminder of our shared responsibility to combat hate speech in all its forms.
In attendance at the event was the UN Resident Coordinator, IOM Pakistan Chief of Mission, representatives from the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), youth organizations, scholars, media organizations, civil society organizations, and beneficiaries of the projects leading activities countering hate speech.
During her address at the event, IOM Pakistan Chief of Mission, Mio Sato, emphasized the critical importance of promoting inclusive communication. "Hate speech intimidates, harms, and marginalizes people. It threatens democratic values and social cohesion. Therefore, we need positive, inclusive, and respectful communication," stated Sato.
Also in attendance was Nida Anum, Deputy Director at NACTA, who highlighted the global and local significance of combating hate speech through partnerships at local and international levels. “Hate speech is a global and local issue that requires locally and internationally built partnerships. We need to combat hate speech, along with all other forms of violence in general, as they contribute to violent extremism. Countering hate speech is important, but equally important is preventing hate speech, as it aids in disengagement and deradicalization,” remarked Anum. She also emphasized the need for collaborative efforts to address the escalating issue of online hate speech, which currently lacks sufficient mitigation measures and a comprehensive legal framework.
The event focused on hearing testimonies from community leaders to provide concrete testimonies and examples of which actions demonstrated impact in combating hate speech. Maulana Shahnawaz Khan, a religious leader from Lower Kurram, expressed his appreciation for IOM's instrumental role in promoting interfaith exchange and harmony in his district. "IOM has fostered unprecedented interfaith harmony by facilitating an extraordinary exchange between Sunni and Shia religious leaders. Through their efforts, for the very first time, these leaders embarked on visits to each other's madrassas (mosques), breaking long-standing barriers and opening doors to a more inclusive and tolerant society,” shared Khan.
IOM has been actively involved in implementing various programs aimed at supporting the reintegration of temporarily displaced persons in newly merged areas. These initiatives also aim to support civil society in those regions while collaborating with diverse stakeholders, including journalists, authorities, the private sector, universities, religious leaders, youth, and women, with the overarching goal of countering the dissemination of misinformation, hate speech, and stereotypes.
IOM remains committed to countering hate speech, fostering social harmony, and building resilient communities.