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UN chief says pandemic is unleashing a ‘tsunami of hate’

/ 02:23 PM May 08, 2020

In this Dec. 17, 2019 file photo, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attends the UNHCR – Global Refugee Forum at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. When financial markets collapsed and the world faced its last great crisis in 2008, major powers worked together to restore the global economy, but the COVID-19 pandemic has been striking for the opposite response. The financial crisis gave birth to the leaders’ summit of the Group of 20, the world’s richest countries responsible for 80% of the global economy. But when Guterres proposed ahead of their summit in late March that G-20 leaders adopt a “wartime” plan and cooperate on the global response to suppress the virus, there was no response (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, File)

UNITED NATIONS — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday the coronavirus pandemic keeps unleashing “a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering” and appealed for “an all-out effort to end hate speech globally.”

The U.N. chief said that “anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred.”

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Guterres said migrants and refugees “have been vilified as a source of the virus — and then denied access to medical treatment.”

“With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes have emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable,” he said. “And journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers, and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs.”

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Guterres called on political leaders to show solidarity with all people, on educational institutions to focus on “digital literacy” at a time when “extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences.”

He called on the media, especially social media, to “remove racist, misogynist, and other harmful content,” on civil society to strengthen their outreach to vulnerable people, and on religious figures to serve as “models of mutual respect.”

“And I ask everyone, everywhere, to stand up against hate, treat each other with dignity, and take every opportunity to spread kindness,” Guterres said.

The secretary-general stressed that COVID-19 “does not care who we are, where we live, what we believe, or about any other distinction.”

His global appeal to address and counter COVID-19-related hate speech follows his April 23 message calling the coronavirus pandemic “a human crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis.”

Guterres said then that the pandemic has seen “disproportionate effects on certain communities, the rise of hate speech, the targeting of vulnerable groups, and the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response.”

With “rising ethnonationalism, populism, authoritarianism, and a push back against human rights in some countries, the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic,” he warned.

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In February, Guterres issued a call to action to countries, businesses, and people to help renew and revive human rights across the globe, laying out a seven-point plan amid concerns about climate change, conflict, and repression.

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TAGS: 2019-nCoV, China, Coronavirus, COVID-19, hate, Health, International news, NcoV, nCoV update, news, novel coronavirus, Outbreak, pandemic, UN, Virus, world, world news, Wuhan, xenophobia
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