Racism, xenophobia and hate speech are serious threats to democracy, harming not only individuals but entire societies.
Regrettably, we continue to witness incidents of hate speech, harassment of, and attacks on ethnic and religious minorities. We need to confront extremist ideologies, prejudices and stereotypes in the public debate and to bring out the counter-arguments.
In Norway, the terrorist attacks in 2011 remain very present in our minds. The attacks were fueled by hate towards different religions and cultures and a society based on individual rights.
In August this year a young man attacked a mosque in Norway and fired several gunshots. Before the attack, the man shot and killed his stepsister, a teenager adopted from China. The case is still under investigation, but the attacker has stated that he wanted to frighten Muslims in Norway.
We must not allow racism and ethnic and religious prejudice and stereotyping to define our societies or limit the freedom of speech and feeling of safety of our citizens.
We are soon half way into the International Decade of People of African Descent proclaimed by the General Assembly in 2015. We need to redouble our efforts to respect the commitments we as states have undertaken to protect the human rights of our citizens and eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.
We must fight misperceptions and stigma attached to ethnic and religious minorities, to secure the freedom of every individual to make its own choices – independent of ethnicity, religion and cultural background.
Norway wants to ensure that everyone can participate in the public debate and move freely in the public sphere without being subject to hate speech. Our Government has a strategy against hate speech.
We are further preparing an action plan against racism and discrimination based on ethnicity and religion, to be launched later this autumn. We have started working on a national action plan against discrimination and hatred against Muslims.
We also have an action plan against Anti-Semitism, which focuses specifically on prevention and education.
Measures and actions must be prepared in close dialogue with minority communities.
Schools are an important arena for preventing intolerance, negative stereotypes and prejudices. Therefore, new teaching resources have been developed to this end.
Efforts on the national level are necessary – but not enough. Co-ordinated efforts on the international level are vital. We need to find common approaches to address discrimination based on ethnicity, religion or belief, including Anti-Semitism and discrimination against Muslims.
Combating prejudice and intolerance, as well as ensuring freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief, is fundamental to Norway.
Thank you, Chair.