The United Nations is committed to strengthening tolerance among cultures and peoples since it lies at the core of the United Nations Charter, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is more important than ever in this era of rising and violent extremism and widening conflicts. Tolerance recognises the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others.
1995 was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as the United Nations Year of Tolerance as outlined in the Declaration of Principles on Tolerance and Follow-up Plan of Action for the Year adopted by UNESCO. Among other things, the Declaration affirms that tolerance is neither indulgence nor indifference. It is respect and appreciation of the rich variety of our world's cultures. In 1996, the UN General Assembly invited UN Member States to observe the International Day for Tolerance on 16 November.
The Declaration qualifies tolerance not only as a moral duty, but also as a political and legal requirement for individuals, groups and States. It situates tolerance in relation to the international human rights instruments drawn up over the past fifty years and emphasizes that States should draft new legislation when necessary to ensure equality of treatment and of opportunity for all.
Among others, discrimination and marginalisation are common forms of intolerance. Education for tolerance should aim at countering influences that lead to fear and exclusion of others, and should help young people develop capacities for independent judgement, critical thinking and ethical reasoning.
Laws alone can't tackle individual intolerance. It is very often rooted in ignorance and fear of the unknown, i.e other cultures, nations, religions. Intolerance also comes from an exaggerated sense of self-worth and pride, whether personal, national or religious developed at an early age. Hence, greater efforts need to be made to teach children about tolerance and human rights, about other ways of life. Curiousity and openness should be fostered in children from home. Endeavours to build tolerance through education alone will not succeed unless they reach all age groups, and take place everywhere ranging from home to information highways.
Fighting intolerance requires access to information
Intolerance is most dangerous when exploited for political and territorial ambitions of an individual or groups of individuals. Hatemongers often begin by identifying the public's tolerance threshold. They then develop fallacious arguments, lie with statistics and manipulate public opinion with misinformation and prejudice. This can be curtailed by developing policies for press freedom. which allows the mass to differentiate between facts and opinions.
Fighting intolerance requires individual awareness
Intolerance in a society is the sum-total of the intolerance of its individual members. Bigotry, stereotyping, stigmatizing, insults and racial jokes are some of the common examples. Intolerance breeds intolerance by leaving the victims in pursuit of revenge. To fight intolerance, individuals should become aware of the link between their behavior and the vicious cycle of mistrust and violence that follows.
Fighting intolerance requires local solutions
Despite knowing that problems will become increasingly global, few realize that solutions to these problems are mainly local, even individual. When we confront an escalation of intolerance, we must not wait for formal intervention alone. We possess an enormous capactiy to wield power by way of non-violent action. Confronting an issue in groups, organising grassroots network, showing solidarity with victims etc are all availabe to those of us who want to put an end to the cycle of intolerance.
-Compiled by Law Desk.