Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the special meeting of the General Assembly in commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in New York today:
I am pleased to join you to observe the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This is an occasion for all of us to renew our promise to end racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, including social and ethnic discrimination, anti-Muslim hatred and anti-Semitism.
The massacre at two mosques in New Zealand two Fridays ago is the latest tragedy rooted in such poison. Last Friday I visited the Islamic Center here in New York to show my solidarity and express my outrage.
Today and every day, we must stand united against racial and religious hatred and the terrorism of bigots. No country or community is immune.
I am deeply alarmed by the current rise of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, fed increasingly by nationalist and populist ideologies.
Hate speech is entering the mainstream, spreading like wildfire through social media and radio. We are seeing it spread in liberal democracies and authoritarian States alike.
These dark forces menace democratic values, social stability and peace. They stigmatize women, minorities, migrants and refugees.
When people are attacked, physically, verbally or on social media, because of their race, religion or ethnicity, all of society is diminished.
It is crucial for all of us to join hands, stand up and defend the principles of equality and human dignity.
With that in mind, I have asked my Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, to bring together the United Nations system to design a strategy and plan of action to combat hate speech.
We must work harder to repair the fissures and polarization that are so prevalent in our societies today. We must nurture mutual understanding and invest in making diversity a success. And we must counter and reject political figures who exploit differences for electoral gain.
But we must also ask why so many people feel excluded, and why they are tempted by messages of intolerance against others.
We need to engage everyone in dismantling the harmful and specious notion of racial superiority.
Even today, decades after the pseudoscience of the Nazis contributed to the Holocaust, the world is seeing the persistence — and even a surge — of neo-Nazi thinking and white supremacy. We must bury such lies once and for all.
At the heart of our efforts, we must uphold and promote universal human rights. This includes supporting national legislation that promotes non-discrimination and encouraging politicians and religious leaders to speak out against intolerance, discriminatory stereotyping and hate speech.
Today let us all resolve to fight racism and discrimination in remembrance of those who have died standing up for their own and others’ human rights. Let us reflect on how we can all promote non-discrimination in every country and at every level.
A few days after the atrocity in New Zealand, worshippers attending a mosque in England were surprised to see a white man standing by the door holding a placard. “You are my friends”, it said. “I will keep watch while you pray.”
Such solidarity is always in evidence after a tragedy.
We saw it in Christchurch, where the community came out in an outpouring of grief to lay flowers and perform the traditional New Zealand haka. And we saw it last year in Pittsburgh, after the United States’ worst anti-Semitic terrorist attack, when members of the Muslim community voiced their support and raised money for the victims.
“We just want to know what you need,” the executive director of the Pittsburgh Islamic Center said. “If it’s people outside your next service protecting you, let us know. We’ll be there.”
Let us use those bonds beforehand to prevent violence and defend the lives and the values we hold dear. We are all connected by our humanity. We are all equal. We should all be looking out for each other’s welfare.