GENEVA, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday that the world is seeing a groundswell of xenophobia, racism and intolerance, so he has formed a special UN team to combat hate speech.
Guterres was speaking at the opening of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council here.
He said his special adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, will assemble a UN team to take up the fight against hate speech and a global strategy and plan of action.
"Hate speech is a menace to democratic values, social stability, and peace. It spreads like wildfire through social media, the Internet, and conspiracy theories," said Guterres.
He noted that public discourse that stigmatizes women, minorities, migrants, refugees and any so-called "other" aids it.
He said that some major political parties and leaders "are cutting and pasting" fringe ideas into their propaganda and electoral campaigns.
As an example of the growing hate discourse he cited "how the debate on human mobility, for example, has been poisoned with false narratives linking refugees and migrants to terrorism and scapegoating them for many of society's ills."
Guterres noted that the primary responsibility to uphold and champion human rights rests with the Member States of the United Nations.
"And I am encouraged by those who are leading the way, especially in these challenging times," he said.
Noting progress in human rights, Guterres said, "One billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty in just a generation. More than two billion people have gained access to improved sanitation."
He also noted that more than 2.5 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water resources and that the mortality rate for children under five worldwide has declined by almost 60 percent.