11/28/2014

No Hate Speech - Zakia Akkouh's keynote and outputs from her workshop at the EPA Conference Bucharest 28/29 November 2014

First I want to express my deep gratitude for the invitation to this important conference on the role of home-school relationship in preventing violence and early school leaving. 

It is always a pleasure to get to talk about the No hate speech movement of the Council of Europe and an extra pleasure to speak to an important audience like this one. I think parents have a special role in prevention of hate speech. I will get back to this at the end of my talk.

The last years have demonstrated (perhaps clearer than ever) the internet´s immense potential for democraticising societies by lowering the barriers for participation. Furthermore it has shown what powerful combination youth  and internet can be for this purpose. Social media has proven an effective tool for young people to organize protests, campaigns, social projects. This powerful combination has brought down dictatorships across the world. A free internet is an important feature of a modern democracy. But we have also seen the negative sides to the internet. And it´s potential for spreading hate and dangerous ideologies: we know that prior to the terrible massacre of youth on Ut√łya the terrorist Breivik was active on online fora spreading hate and communicating with like minded. We also know that many of the young Europeans joining the IS in Iraq and Syria are recruited through the internet.

The No Hate speech movement was launched by the Youth department of the Council of Europe in 2013 as a response to the emergence of and increased support to far right movements and extremism in Europe. This development has given homophobia, racism, xenophobia and other forms of group focused enmity new forms of legitimacy in European political discourse. 

Hate speech online has become a major form of human rights abuse, with very serious consequences for people- both online and offline. Young people are directly concerned as victims, targets, active and passive audience to it. 


In a survey carried out by the CoE in 2012 78% of the respondents declared that they have encountered hate speech online. LGBT youth, Muslims, women and immigrants were among the top four target of hate online. Against this background there is no doubt that action is needed: to raise awareness, change attitudes and mobilise youth to speak up against hate speech and for human rights online. The campaign is built on a network of national campaign committees in 49 countries (because it is a movement it has spread to countries outside the Europe such as Mexico and Canada). Although the focus is youth, it is an educational campaign centred around how school communities can help prevent and respond to hate speech. 

Central to the No hate speech campaign is the realisation that we cannot protect youth against everything they encounter online or in real life for that matter- and I´m sure yu as parents also have come to the same conclusion. And from a democratic point of view, censorship is not the solution either. Ronald Dworkin " The content and context of hate speech": hate speech is the price we have to pay for living in democracies where the freedom of speech also protects some forms of hate speech.  


So what is left to do?

Building on the principles of human rights education the campaign focus not on protecting youth against hate speech online, but rather on empowerment of youth. On building up young people´s knowledge and competencies to recognise, speak up against and combat hate speech both online and offline.
The campaign views youth as change agents. And the focus is to build them up as active democratic citizens both online and offline. 

Given that it is an educational campaign designed to get the whole school community to empower youth. One of the weaknesses of the campaign in my view is that there has been too little focus on parents as part of the school community. Parents are mentioned, but it is not said exactly how to involve them. However, it is not too late to do something about this. And this is what I want to work with you on the workshop tomorrow. I am convinced that we cannot reach the goal of the campaign without the parent. Some times parents are seen as the problem, rather than the solution. In a recent research conducted by Save the Children in Norway this was the exact conclusion: children learn bullying and hate speech at the dinner table. This might as well be true for some parents, but that only makes it more important to work together with parents as part  of the school community. 


The whole-school approach is important because what lies at the heart of this: is trust.  It´s about building an environment of trust so that children and youth feel that they can go to the teacher and their parents when they encounter hate speech and online bullying.

Its also about seeing the children or youth, and parents in many ways are better equipped to do this. For starters, they might have two or three kids, while the teacher have responsibility for 30 students. furthermore, with the online world the bullying that starts in the school yard is often continued online when the kids come home. These two spheres have never really been separated and with the online dimension it´s even harder or impossible to separate the two.


Our main messages when we work with teacher and schools and my main messages to you today is:


- We cannot ignore hate speech and online bullying. Hate speech is a human rights violation adn in it´s most extreme form it leads to hate crime. 

- There is a need to de-mystify the online world: A lot of the reason why cyberbullying and hate speech is so much worse online is because there is an artificial divide between the online world and offline "real world." We see the online world as a continuation of the same public space as the offline world and just as much a part of the offline world where the same rules of conduct applies. But, at the same time we highlight the special features of the online world: hate speech and bullying online can be so much more detrimental because of the potentially unlimited audience. 

 - You don't need to know the latest social media trends: it´s about what it has always been about: transmitting good values and building a relationship of trust, so they come to you. 

- Home-school relationship is important and needs to be an integral part of this work. what starts in the school yard continues at home and vice versa. 


My plan for the workshop tomorrow is to expand on this and to discuss with you how the campaign can be better at including parents in this important work. I hope to see as many of you as possible. 

 Thank you for your time.

CoE definition of hate speech: 

"The term hate speech shall be understood as covering all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including: intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethocentrism, discrimination and hostility against minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin."


Recommendations from the workshop at the European Parents Association’s conference: The role of home-school relationship in preventing violence and early school leaving.

·         Life long learning as a basic principle for the home-school relationship
Given that children and youth get a lot of their values from their parents, it is important to have a focus on parents and life long learning in the No hate speech campaign specifically and in prevention more generally.  This can be done in several ways:
1.       Students teaching their parents: youth generally know more about social media than their parents and a “crash course” in these technologies could have multiple functions: parents would get more knowledge about their children’s “world” leading them to worry less, empowerment of the students in terms of their interests and knowledge being taken seriously and feeling that they are being seen.
2.       Workshops for parents: the parents’ meeting can be used to have workshops on online hate speech using exercises from Bookmarks (edited to fit parents). Workshops that explore the participants’ own prejudices are especially recommended.  It was also recommended to invite parents to activities such as arts and crafts workshops where the participants can learn and talk about themes related to hate speech while their hands are busy. This way the workshops would also attract parents who perhaps otherwise wouldn’t participate.
·         Consistency in what students are told at school and at home
There is a need to establish clear rules on how issues related to hate speech and prejudices are addressed so that students experience consistency in what is “allowed” to say.
The school board should establish (in cooperation with parents and the student council) a set of values for the school and “dos” and “don’ts.” There should be established standards for how to behave online and offline (same rules should apply).
·         Ad hoc situations and crises as a starting point for working on long term prevention
There is a need to use “crises” and other ad-hoc situations the home/school need to handle as a starting point to work on long-term prevention.  The situation is simply not over when the “offender” is dealt with/sanctioned and the “offended” is comforted. If the situation is not dealt with properly and more long term goals for prevention is put in action, the same/similar  situation or crisis is likely to re-appear.  Furthermore, this way conflict and crises can be turned into something positive.
·         Develop resources for parents as well
It’s important to develop tools for parents (both digital and offline tools). It is a myth that all parents are digitally illiterate, tools such as apps for how to address different topics and handle situations with children would be welcomed by many.  The topics and messages of the resources should be tailored to the cultural context of the target groups.
·         Parent to parent communication should be encouraged

Parents should be encourages to establish a culture for talking with each other and sharing the responsibility for creating a good environment and good routines for working together to solve common challenges and promote common values. Often it is easier to achieve changes this way (bottom up).

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