Pro-Muslim protestor carrying a sign saying 'No Freedom for Hate Speech' as opposing groups of protesters clashed over the M-103 motion to fight Islamophobia during pro-Muslim and anti-Muslim demonstrations in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on March 04, 2017. Canadians across the country staged similar protests against Islam, Muslims, Sharia Law and M-103. These protests were met by counter protests by those supporting Muslims and in favour of M-103. M-103 is a private members motion put forth by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid that asks the government to 'recognize the need to quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear' and condemn Islamophobia, as well as all other kinds of 'systemic racism and religious discrimination.' (Photo by Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Photo by Creative Touch Imaging Ltd./NurPhoto via Getty Images

Penny Starr

The United Nations marked the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Tuesday by telling governments around the world that regulating “hate speech” is part of the strategy needed to “stand up for someone’s rights.”

Governments around the world “have a legal obligation to stop hate speech and hate crimes,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein reportedly said Tuesday, adding a call “on people everywhere to ‘stand up for someone’s rights,’” the press release about the event said.

“It is not an attack on free speech or the silencing of controversial ideas or criticism, but a recognition that the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities,” Al Hussein said in a statement.

“Words of fear and loathing can, and do, have real consequences,” Zeid said.

In his statement, Zeid said that U.N. member states “do not have any excuse to allow racism and xenophobia to fester.”

States “have the legal obligation to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination, to guarantee the right of everyone, no matter their race, color, national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law.”

“At the Summit for Refugees and Migrants in September 2016, U.N. member states adopted a declaration strongly condemning acts and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance,” the press release said. “The Summit also sparked the UN’s Together initiative to change negative perceptions and attitudes aimed at refugees and migrants.”

The press release said this year’s theme is “ending racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including as it relates to people’s attitudes and actions towards migration.”

Irina Bokova, director-general of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), also weighed in on the U.N.’s Facebook page.

“Racial discrimination is a poison that diminishes individuals and societies, perpetuates inequality and feeds anger, bitterness and violence,” Bokova said. “The fight against racism and all forms of discrimination is a mainstay of peace and social cohesion, especially in our increasingly diverse societies.

“On the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, UNESCO calls on all its Member States and partners to step up their efforts to build a more inclusive, more giving and fairer world,” Bokova said.

Bokova cited treatment of refugees in her remarks.

“In partnership with the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation and the European Coalition of Cities against Racism, UNESCO has in particular launched the initiative ‘Welcoming cities for refugees,’ with a view to supporting local authorities in their reception policies.”