16 June 2009
I am pleased to take part in this seminar. I want to thank all the participants who have come to share your stories and join together for solutions.
Let me begin by expressing my support for the Unlearning Intolerance series and its creative efforts to foster respect and understanding around the world.
I have always believed that tolerance starts with listening.
It starts with understanding that all people have a story. That story is not the same. It may be my story. It may be your story. But it is often rooted in anguish and suffering. It has a history. And it deserves to be heard.
Today, more and more people are sharing those stories over the internet.
The internet has brought enormous good to our world. It has transformed the way we live and work.
Yet we know there are also a few dark alleys along the information superhighway.
There are those who use information technology to reinforce stereotypes, to spread misinformation and to propagate hate.
Look no further than last week's shocking shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. For years, the alleged shooter was well known for spewing racist venom through the internet and elsewhere.
This tragedy is yet another reminder of how some of the newest technologies are being used to peddle some of the oldest fears.
I call it 'digital demonization', and we have seen it time and again targeting innocents because of their faith, their race, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation.
Here at the United Nations, we understand the power of words. Words can hurt or they can heal. They can rupture or they can repair.
For young people, electronic harassment and cyber hate can have a searing impact.
We must be aware. We must remain vigilant.
Protecting children is a top priority for the United Nations. And we have taken a number of steps to make cyber space safer for young people.
First, the World Summit on the Information Society produced the Geneva Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action. It called for preventive action against abuse of information and communication technologies for acts motivated by racism, xenophobia and related intolerance, including child abuse and child pornography.
Second, in November, the International Telecommunications Union, together with other UN agencies and partners, launched the Child Online Protection initiative.
Third, just last month, the ITU and its partners developed draft guidelines for the protection of children in cyberspace.
These guidelines are aimed at empowering children and young people through education and awareness; providing advice and safety tips for parents and educators; and offering information for policy makers and industry to formulate national and international strategies.
Fourth, UNICEF is conducting research and developing partnerships to create the virtual safety of online communities. UNICEF has also established Net Safety Day to teach children, their parents and teachers how young people can protect themselves against online abuse.
All of us have a role to play.
Parents have a responsibility to teach their children to safely surf the net. The bully has jumped from the schoolyard to the cell phone and the computer screen. Parents must also be wary of the places their children travel online and also of abusers exploiting through cell phones.
The Internet industry can help ensure that hate speech does not proliferate online.
Policy makers must also take a hard look at this problem and work to safeguard people while balancing basic freedoms and human rights.
Once again, many thanks to all of you for being here to share your knowledge and your experience.
I encourage you to raise awareness and help stop hate speech and bullying on the Internet and through other forms of modern technology.
Together, let us make sure that cyber space is safe for our children.
Thank you very much.