Explanation of Vote by John F. Sammis, Deputy Representative to ECOSOC, on the 3rd Committee Resolution A/C.3/66/L.68/Rev.1 "Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action,"

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




AS DELIVERED

Mr. Chairman,

The United States is profoundly committed to combating racism and racial discrimination.  We remain fully and firmly committed to upholding the human rights of all individuals.  This commitment is rooted in some of the saddest chapters of our history and reflected in the most cherished values of our union.  We will continue to work in partnership with all nations of goodwill to uphold human rights and combat racism, bigotry, and racial discrimination in all forms and all places.

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 combat racism and racial discrimination wherever they occur.

We remain deeply concerned about speech that advocates national, racial, or religious hatred, particularly when it constitutes incitement to 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.

Our concerns about the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) and its follow-up are well known and we cannot therefore endorse all efforts undertaken in this resolution.  Two years ago, after working to try to achieve a positive, constructive outcome in the Durban Review Conference that would get past the deep flaws of the Durban process to date to focus on the critical issues of racism, the United States withdrew from participating because the review conference’s outcome document reaffirmed, in its entirety, the DDPA which unfairly singled out Israel and endorsed overbroad restrictions on freedom of expression that run counter to the U.S. commitment to robust free speech.

We are confident that beneath our differences, we share the same goals and we are proud of efforts we have jointly made in this and other forums to underscore this fact.  The United States supported declaring 2011 the UN Year of People of African Descent and has worked on important programs to combat racism, including special sessions at the OAS, bilateral work with Brazil and Colombia, and programming at our embassies around the world. 

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 through constructive mechanisms.

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.

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PRN: 2011/279