Explanation of Position by Laurie Shestack Phipps, United States Advisor, on Agenda Item 49, L.15: on "Promotion of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, Understanding and Cooperation for Peace" in Plenary of the Sixty-fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Laurie Shestack Phipps
Adviser for Economic and Social Affairs 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
December 7, 2009




AS DELIVERED

Mr. Vice President, as in past years, the text just adopted contains many worthwhile elements.  It promotes respect among people with different cultural and religious backgrounds and affirms that mutual understanding and dialogue are crucial for achieving a true and lasting peace.

The United States is committed to building a more peaceful world and encourages individuals from different religious and cultural communities to engage in practical action, such as interfaith service, to help foster respect and encourage reconciliation.  We remain committed to expanding programs that promote reconciliation between religious groups and actively partner with other governments and with civil society actors around the world to forge new bonds among people of all religions and beliefs.  In addition, we acknowledge that faith is a powerful and mobilizing force, and faith leaders play a critical role in alleviating the most pressing global challenges.  We believe that interfaith efforts can be among the best protections against intolerance and hatred.

In promoting diversity and dialogue, we are guided by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which clearly states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”  To that end, we do not believe that restricting peaceful expression of opinion or belief can build respect or tolerance.  The United States believes unequivocally that the freedoms of religion and expression are precisely the antidote that is needed to combat intolerance. 

For these reasons the resolution we have just adopted must not in any way be read to restrict peaceful expression of opinion or belief.  The United States firmly believes in the right of all people to think and express themselves freely and peacefully. 

UN resolutions, such as this, must not be misused to justify imprisonment, torture, and even death sentences for those that express views that are dissident or critical of the government in power.  Members of society must be able to engage in the open exchange of views without fear of recrimination if we are to develop the understanding and trust necessary to get along and live peaceably with one other.

Thank you.

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PRN: 2009/306