Hate speech plants the seeds of disunity, hatred and intolerance, leading to breaking down the fabric of basic human values, President Hage Geingob has said.
Geingob said this on Tuesday while addressing an online Global Ministerial Conference on the Role of Education in Addressing and Building Resilience Against Hate Speech.
The UN said hate speech is on the rise worldwide, with the potential to incite violence, undermine social cohesion and tolerance, and cause psychological, emotional and physical harm, based on xenophobia, racism, antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of intolerance and discrimination.
History has shown us that genocide and other atrocity crimes begin with words. There is, therefore, a collective responsibility to address hate speech in the present day to prevent further violence in the future.
“This trend poses a great danger to our efforts of promoting multilateralism, cooperation, and seeking peaceful solutions to conflict. Hate speech plants the seeds of disunity, hatred and intolerance, leading to breaking down the fabric of basic human values,” Geingob said.
“I have often said inclusivity spells harmony but exclusivity spells conflict. Hate speech is a catalyst for exclusivity and, therefore, a direct threat to our shared values of caring, solidarity and compassion,” he said.
Geingob said hate speech is a menace in societies, which, if not addressed, with all seriousness, will undermine the nation’s aspirations and efforts to build a more equitable, peaceful and prosperous world for all.
“Fighting this scourge demands determined action on our part to stand together in unison,” Geingob stressed.
In June 2019, UN secretary general António Guterres launched a strategy to enhance the United Nations’ response to the global phenomenon of hate speech. The UN convened the Global Education Ministers Conference on addressing hate speech through education, which was held on 26 October 2021.
Geingob said, Namibia, out of its history of suffering under the pernicious system of Apartheid, embarked on a path of national reconciliation at independence.
“We believe that it is in unity that our strength lies, and it is in pursuing policies of inclusion that we will build robust processes, systems and institutions that will imbue trust, confidence and cooperation in our efforts of building peaceful, prosperous and inclusive societies,” Geingob said.
“Hate has no place in society. It distracts from the inherent human capacity to show compassion and uplift the human spirit,” he added.
He said it is an accepted fact that education and acculturation in Namibia’s formative years are critical in shaping the life skills and attitudes we develop later in life.
“Schools and educational institutions are important microcosms for wider society,” he said.
Furthermore, Geingob said educational settings provide opportunities for multiple stakeholders to employ approaches that build on learned behaviour and foster social cohesion.
Additionally, he said, beyond playing a directive role in framing critical thinking skills, schools also play a supportive role in modernising attitudes.
On a personal level, Geingob said, in advocating for unity in Namibia, he has always used the analogy that nation-building is like building a house.
“You begin by laying a foundation on which you construct your house – one brick at a time. You conclude by applying plaster and paint – until the individual bricks are no longer visible, and all that is left is a strong and sturdy house,” he said.
He said, this is also applicable to the global context, where people can think of all the ethnicities of the world as the various bricks that are used to build a house.
“This analogy speaks to the essence of how critical we all are, and how much value we all add to the global village – that is the world we live in,” said the head of State.
Recently, hate speech, perpetuated on social media platforms, have made international headlines, as these popular platforms have been accused of amplifying and fueling hate speech.
A whistleblower behind the leak of Facebook documents to the Wall Street Journal, Frances Haugen, revealed the company embraced algorithms that amplify hate speech.
“It’s paying for its profits with our safety,” Haugen said on the ‘60 Minutes’ television programme.