Explanation of Vote by John F. Sammis, Deputy Representative to ECOSOC, on the Third Committee Resolution A/C.3/66/L.34 "Human rights and cultural diversity,"

John F. Sammis
United States Deputy Representative to ECOSOC 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
November 22, 2011




AS DELIVERED

The United States continues to support the promotion of cultural pluralism, tolerance, cooperation and dialogue among individuals from different cultures and civilizations. We also firmly believe that all governments are responsible for protecting the rights and freedoms set forth in international human rights law. The UN Charter commits us to achieve international cooperation in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction to race, sex, language, or religion.

Cultural diversity has played a critical role in our own country's history, which shows that cultural diversity can strengthen human rights. We are concerned, however, that the concept of "cultural diversity" as put forward in this resolution could be misused to legitimize human rights abuses. Human rights are universal. Respect for them substantially enhances the respect for diversity we all seek.

Efforts to promote cultural diversity should not infringe on the enjoyment of human rights, nor justify limitations on their scope. By raising the concept of cultural diversity to the level of an essential objective while failing to reflect such potential concerns about its misuse, this resolution misrepresents the relationship between cultural diversity and international human rights law.

A more balanced and accurate characterization of cultural diversity and its relationship with human rights law is presented in the UN Human Rights Council's resolution 17/15, "Promotion of the enjoyment of cultural rights of everyone and respect for cultural diversity," on which the United States joined consensus in June 2011. Furthermore, in this context we do not believe that UNESCO should take up initiatives aimed at promoting intercultural dialogue on human rights.

For these and other reasons, we vote no on this resolution.

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PRN: 2011/274