Explanation of Vote by John F. Sammis, Deputy Representative to ECOSOC, on the Third Committee Resolution Regarding "The Comprehensive Implementation of and Follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Program of Action"

John F. Sammis
United States Deputy Representative to ECOSOC 
New York, NY
November 23, 2010


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 today in both our record of strong legislation and policies to vigorously fight discrimination and promote equal opportunity and equal treatment, as well as in our ongoing work with the international community to fight prejudice based on race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation.

We believe the United Nations must continue to address the issues of race and racism, and the United States will work with all people and nations to build enduring political will and to find concrete ways to halt racism and racial discrimination wherever they occur.

We remain deeply concerned about speech that advocates national, racial, or religious hatred, particularly when it seeks to incite violence, discrimination, or hostility. However, based on our own experience, 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 that this resolution contains elements that require us to vote no, 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.

In addition to these concerns with the resolution, we are also deeply troubled by the choice of time and venue for the 10thanniversary commemorative event. Just days earlier, we will have honored the victims of 9/11, whose loved ones will be marking a solemn 10-year anniversary for them and the entire nation. It will be an especially sensitive time for the people of New York and a repeat of the vitriol sadly experienced at past Durban-related events risks undermining the relationship we have worked hard to strengthen over the past few years between the United States and the UN.

The poor choice of time and venue for the 10th anniversary commemorative event places a premium on the need for all participants to put forth genuine, good-faith efforts to ensure that this event focuses on the substantive issues at stake in the global fight against racism, and that it does not become a forum for politicization, or efforts that run counter to mutual respect and fundamental human rights.

Despite our differences, we believe it is important that we collectively and constructively focus on the future. Almost ten years after the World Conference Against Racism, problems of racism and discrimination continue to plague all regions of the world. We are confident that beneath our differences we share the same goals in terms of combating racism.

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. Thank you.


PRN: 2010/295