Explanation of Vote by John F. Sammis, United States Deputy Representative to ECOSOC, on L.49 - Human Rights and Cultural Diversity, in the Third Committee of the Sixty-fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly

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


Mr. Chair, the United States supports the promotion of cultural pluralism, tolerance, cooperation and dialogue among cultures and civilizations.  We also firmly believe that all governments are responsible for ensuring the rights and freedoms spelled out in international human rights law.  The UN's Charter commits us to achieve international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction to race, sex, language, or religion.

For this reason, the United States supported including language in the resolution that anchors it to international human rights law.  In the end, however, we are unable to support this resolution since this language was not included and we have concerns that the concept of cultural diversity, unmoored to human rights law, could undermine the principles enshrined in international human rights law.  We are also concerned that the term “cultural diversity” could be used to legitimize human rights abuses. 

In fact, human rights are universal.  Respect for them substantially enhances the diversity we all seek.  Through the course of negotiations, we worked to find language that clarifies that efforts to promote cultural diversity should not infringe on the enjoyment of human rights, nor justify limitations on their scope.  It is unfortunate that these clarifications were not included in the resolution. 

Mr. Chair, the United States strongly endorses the concerns raised by Canada and by Sweden in its statement on behalf of the EU.  We will also be voting no on this resolution. 

Thank you.


PRN: 2009/295