No Hate Speech Movement - Evaluation Conference

Strasbourg , 

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It is a pleasure to be here in the company of so many who have done so much for the No Hate Speech Movement Youth Campaign.

Co-ordinators, campaigners and activists.

Representatives from every level of government: local, regional and national – including the City of Strasbourg to which we owe a special thanks.

And of course youth organisations themselves whose vitality, creativity and effective co-management have been of critical importance.

I also want to make special mention of Anne Brasseur.

Anne has been a dedicated and effective ambassador for this campaign.

And her work with the Parliamentary Assembly and initiation of the No Hate Parliamentary Alliance have been of particular value.

So to all of you, my thanks.

It is worth remembering just why this campaign came about.

We launched the No Hate Speech Movement back in 2013 because the impact of hate speech online had become so desperately apparent.

Intimidation, exploitation and discrimination of every sort.

With all the misery, heartache and damage they cause.

Young people in particular are among its primary targets.

We saw this in the case of young Canadian Amanda Todd:

A victim of cyber-bullying whose suicide in 2012 horrified the world.

And I saw it in relation to my own country in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the island of Utoya the previous year.

The online justifications, trivialisations and expressions of support for the murder of so many young people were shocking and cruel.

So the young people on the Advisory Council on Youth were right to recognise that this is a human rights issue.

Right to call for education as a means of prevention.

Right to call for this campaign.

And what a campaign it has been.

Over the past five years your efforts have touched the lives of ever more people.

Helping to identify, report and prevent hate speech whenever and wherever it threatens to occur.

Over the past two years alone you have up-skilled 1,100 youth leaders and activists –

Organised thousands of local events and courses –

And reached up to 100,000 social media users on each of the 11 action days that you have organised.

All of this across 45 European countries, with Mexico, Morocco, Tunisia and Quebec in Canada joining in too.

And the ground-breaking manuals that you have produced – Bookmarks and WE CAN! – show not only that education is the key to prevention –

But that counter and alternative narratives to hate speech are essential –

And that young people can themselves be the authors of those narratives.

That they can become agents for human rights and democratic values both online and offline too.

Today you have been reflecting on the results of your five years’ hard work.

You have been able to discuss the ways in which national organisations are being equipped with the knowledge, experience and materials to take this effort forward for themselves.

But the Council of Europe’s commitment does not end here.

I will ensure that the results of this campaign – and the conclusions of this conference – are brought to the attention of our Committee of Ministers.

And other Council of Europe bodies too.

So that we can all consider the best way forward.

Alongside our ongoing work to tackle hate, discrimination and information disorder on the internet.

In our effort to tackle hate speech we continue our standard-setting work –

Our monitoring and co-operation programmes with member states, civil society and others -

And our partnership with key internet companies including Google and Facebook.

That platform, established last year, is a means to work with the industry to safeguard human rights, democracy and the rule of law online.

So without pre-empting your own evaluation, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you – and to thank you once again.

Whether you are staff from this Organisation or any one of the talented professionals and volunteers in this room and beyond – your commitment has made the difference.

Not just a difference to this campaign.

But to the lives of countless young people who have experienced hate speech online, but encouraged or saved by your intervention.

And to countless more who might never experience that hate because your work has prevented it.

Thank you.