23rd Mar 2018

'Rhetoric of fascism' on the rise, UN rights chief warns

The UN's foremost human rights chief has warned of the dangerous rise of the "rhetoric of fascism" in Europe.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN high commissioner for human rights, has said an "unprecedented pressure on international human rights standards risks unravelling the unique set of protections set in place after the end of Second World War.”

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Speaking in Geneva on Thursday (8 December), ahead of Human Rights Day, on Saturday, he noted that 2016 has been a disastrous year for human rights across the world.

He highlighted the refugee crisis unleashed by the Syrian conflict and extremist movements that subject people to "horrific violence", climate change, and "yawning economic disparities."

Ra’ad Al Hussein said these events threaten the liberal world order as we know it.

"If the growing erosion of the carefully constructed system of human rights and rule of law continues to gather momentum, ultimately everyone will suffer," he warned.

This year saw several political upsets, with the UK voting to leave the EU and Donald Trump winning the US presidency, while populist forces gathered strength across the west.

Ra’ad Al Hussein warned that hate speech and fascist rhetoric was on the rise across the western world.

“In some parts of Europe, and in the United States, anti-foreigner rhetoric full of unbridled vitriol and hatred, is proliferating to a frightening degree, and is increasingly unchallenged," he said in Geneva.

He added that "the rhetoric of fascism is no longer confined to a secret underworld of fascists, meeting in ill-lit clubs or on the ‘Deep Net.’ It is becoming part of normal daily discourse."

He warned that tearing up the laws and institutions that were designed after World War Two to protect all individuals, and to promote stability and economic prosperity, is "shortsighted and dangerous."

"These are not trifles to be tossed aside for personal or political gain,” he said.

He warned that "many leaders are failing to grapple effectively and honestly with these complex social and economic issues."

As a result, "people are turning in desperation to the siren voices exploiting fears, sowing disinformation and division, and making alluring promises they cannot fulfil," he added, referring to populist forces.

Next year might bring another wave of momentum in the rise of populism, with elections coming up in the Netherlands, France and Germany, where populist parties have been gaining popularity.

Ra’ad Al Hussein stressed it was within the power of every individual to play a role in pushing back against these forces.

The UN is set to launch a campaign entitled "Stand up for someone's rights today" on Saturday, Ra’ad Al Hussein said, arguing protecting these values couldn't be left to institutions alone.

The EU will join the UN's campaign.

"Each of us has an individual responsibility to stand up for these [human] rights," the EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini said in a statement on Friday (9 December).


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