Explanation of Vote on L.54, on a UNGA Third Committee Omnibus Resolution Entitled "Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

John F. Sammis
United States Deputy Representative to ECOSOC 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
November 24, 2009


Mr. Chairman, the United States is deeply committed to fighting racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related forms of intolerance at home and abroad.  Our founding commitment to the principle that all people are created equal is manifested in both our record of strong domestic legislation and policies to vigorously combat racist activities and attitudes, and in our ongoing work with the international community to fight prejudice based on race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.  In October, the United States presented an Action Plan to Combat Racial and Religious Discrimination and Intolerance during the session of the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards in Geneva.  We will continue to work with other nations on practical measures and steps to combat racial intolerance and discrimination.

We were unable to support the Durban Review Conference Outcome Document because it endorsed the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in toto and supported prohibitions on freedom of expression.  We remain deeply concerned about speech that advocates national, racial, or religious hatred, particularly when it seeks to incite violence, discrimination, or hostility.  But we do not agree that the best way to address hateful speech is to restrict free speech.  Based on our own experience and First Amendment traditions, the United States remains convinced that the best antidote to offensive speech is not bans and punishments but a combination of three key elements: robust legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes, proactive government outreach to racial and religious groups, and the vigorous defense of freedom of expression. 

My delegation regrets having to vote no on this resolution, and we hope to work together to find common ground on concrete approaches that both protect freedom of expression and combat all forms of racism and racial discrimination.  The United States is deeply committed to engaging in an ongoing, thoughtful dialogue that can result in vigorous action to effectively combat racism—an issue of deep concern and great importance for us all.


PRN: 2009/287