President of the General Assembly,
Latvia welcomes convening of this timely debate and joins others in expressing great concern over increase in anti-Semitic attacks worldwide. While fully aligning with the statement on behalf of the European Union, let me say a few words in the national capacity.
We have witnessed deplorable incidents of hatred, intolerance, discrimination and violence against individuals based on their religion or belief. Sadly, these acts have also targeted institutions including schools, graveyards, cultural centers and places of worship. The Jewish Community has been particularly targeted. Expressions of intolerant or hostile views also have become frequent on the Internet.
In order to respond to these challenges it is imperative for governments around the world to promote tolerance and mutual respect in their societies. Educational initiatives and teacher training programs that provide young people with education on the subject of anti-Semitism, as well as training for law enforcement in order to more effectively investigate anti-Semitic attacks, are still areas where more work should be done.
As a democratic state Latvia has always condemned any manifestations of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, and prioritised combating of racial, ethnic and religious intolerance, including anti-Semitism. Nationally, we have criminalized actions of intentionally inciting national, ethnic or racial hatred, and Latvian Government has devoted increased attention to the investigation of hate or racially motivated crimes. We have been working on awareness-raising campaigns in cooperation with the NGOs, as well as on including the topic of anti-Semitism in the school curricula. Police increasingly uses social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter – to inform the public and to encourage reporting. In addition to traditional forms of reporting hate crimes to the police, reporting can be done online. It proves that digital media are also helpful.
At the same time we have to be firm on our values; we should eliminate hidden subjects in our political discourse and our social life. Only truth can make us fully free. I still recall myself in high school during Soviet times, when information on the Holocaust was highly restricted. That work only started when Latvia regained its independence in 1991. Sometimes it is not easy, it is controversial, but we strive to do as much as we can to expose all tragedies and controversies of World War II. More needs to be done to open and digitalize the archives and other sources to promote understanding among the youth about the sources of prejudice, bigotry, hatred, and in particular the homophobic nature of extremist and totalitarian ideologies. In this regard, I appreciate greatly the opportunity this year to take part in the March of the Living in Auschwitz death camp along with the thousands of young people from all the corners of the world.
Last, but not least, anti-Semitism has no place in sports; both athletes and fans can play a big role in tackling this obnoxious phenomenon. Football or soccer games are a particular area of concern.