Explanation of Vote on Third Committee resolution A/C.3/66/L.60 "Inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms 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 17, 2011


Mr. Chairman,

The United States supports many elements of this resolution. We join other members of the Third Committee in expressing revulsion at any attempt to glorify or otherwise promote Nazi ideology.  The United States has been a strong supporter of the UN's efforts to remember the Holocaust and has a deep commitment to honoring the memory of the millions of lives lost.  We also condemn without reservation all forms of religious intolerance or hatred.

We remain concerned, however, that the resolution fails again this year to distinguish between actions and statements that, while offensive, should be protected by freedom of expression, and criminal actions motivated by bias that should always be prohibited.  The United States shares the concern expressed in this resolution regarding increases in the number of racist incidents expressed in any medium or forum, including on the Internet.

However, we do not consider curtailing expression to be an appropriate or effective means of combating racism and related intolerance.  Rather, it is our firm conviction, as reflected in the U.S. Constitution and laws of the United States, that individual freedoms of speech, expression and association should be robustly protected, even when the ideas represented by such expression are full of hatred.  It is for this reason that the United States has taken a reservation to Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.  We remain convinced of the need for this reservation.

In a free society hateful ideas will fail on account of their own intrinsic lack of merit.  The best antidote to intolerance is not criminalizing offensive speech but rather a combination of robust legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes, proactive government outreach to minority religious groups, and the vigorous defense of both freedom of religion and freedom of expression.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2011/248