Opening Remarks at the 2020 Conference on Combating Hate and Discrimination: “Implementing Strategy and Plan of Action to Address Hate and Discrimination”

2020 Conference on Combating Hate and Discrimination

Implementing Strategy and Plan of Action to address Hate and Discrimination

EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore

 Opening Remarks

17 September 2020

Seoul, Republic of Korea


Good morning from Brussels. Good morning to all in Seoul as well as those connected online from different parts of the world to participate in this workshop on Combating Hate Speech.

I would like to thank the organizers, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea and the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Korea, for inviting me to address the workshop via video. I have not been able to travel to Seoul to join you in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic but I hope to visit the Republic of Korea in the near future for a series of human rights meetings.

Tackling all forms of discrimination and hatred, including hate speech, is an important strand of the European Union human rights foreign policy, which I promote in my capacity as European Union Special Representative for Human Rights.

Hate speech is a breeding ground for violence and conflict. Tolerance and non-discrimination are the foundations for human dignity, dialogue and peace. Hate speech is an old scourge sparing no country. The advent of digital technologies and social media over the recent two decades have given it new outlets and new strength. Our digital era has also given rise to deliberate disinformation, which often nurtures or capitalizes on hatred, stigmatization and xenophobia.

Combating hate speech is ever more acute in times of crises such as the current coronavirus pandemic. Since its outbreak, we have witnessed a tide of scapegoating, xenophobia, and hate speech both online and offline. This is unacceptable. I endorse the recent appeal by the United Nations Secretary-General to counter COVID-19 hate speech. For defeating the virus, the world needs solidarity and joint action with human rights at the forefront. There is no place for hate, stigmatization, selfishness, and scaremongering.

Minorities, vulnerable, and marginalized groups are those targeted the most. In Europe, three quarters of hate crimes targeted ethnic and religious minorities, according to the latest data of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The European Union has a number of instruments to combat discrimination and hate speech at home – the robust body of anti-discrimination legislation grounded in its Charter of Fundamental Rights and the United Nations human rights law, or the Code of Conduct on countering illegal hate speech online, a tool involving major IT companies such as Facebook, Twitter, or Microsoft. My colleague Louisa Klingvall of the European Commission will elaborate further on these and other domestic measures.

In our foreign relations, the universal principle of non-discrimination is one of the foundational values the European Union strives to promote and defend. The European Union is currently completing a new Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy to cover the next five years. This new Action Plan for the period 2020-2024 is clear about combating inequalities, discrimination and exclusion. The new Action Plan also gives more prominence to digital technologies. We live in an increasingly digital age. In standing up for human rights globally, we must harness opportunities and address challenges presented by new technologies. Combating hate speech online is part of this mission.

The European Union will continue working with all countries to stand up against hate crime and all forms of discrimination. We are ready to share our human rights expertise and good practice. We also want to learn from others.

This workshop is a good opportunity to share experiences and success stories, inspiring further and more targeted action against hate speech and discrimination.

I hope that your deliberations today will contribute to the strengthening of anti-discrimination protection in the Republic of Korea. A comprehensive equality and anti-discrimination law, covering all forms of discrimination including sexual orientation or gender identity, would be very welcome for the Republic of Korea and I encourage the legislators to adopt such a law.

I wish all participants a very productive session.


Further details on the conference can be found here.