U.S. Explanation of Vote on a Global Call for Concrete Action for the Total Elimination of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia & Related Intolerance & the Comprehensive Implementation of &Follow-Up to the Durban Declaration & Programme of Action

Mordica Simpson
ECOSOC Advisor
United States
New York City
November 20, 2017

AS DELIVERED

The United States would like to reaffirm its commitment to combatting racism and racist ideology worldwide. Too many people in this lifetime and throughout history have needlessly and tragically lost their lives due to race, color, ethnicity, and religion. Racism comes in many forms – in violence, mass murders, and genocide as well as in everyday discrimination, persecution, and hate. Because of that, we all have a duty to stand up, speak out, and condemn discrimination of any kind. As Ambassador Nikki Haley recently said, “those who spew hate are few, but loud. We must denounce them at every turn and isolate them the same way they wish to isolate others.”

We are aware that combatting racism is a challenge that every nation faces, including our own, but we must acknowledge that ending racism is not achieved by government alone – it is achieved in the hearts and minds of the people we serve. In a free society, each citizen has to choose not to hate or tolerate those who do. And in all nations, government should not sit idly by in the face of intolerance. Instead, leaders should speak out against racism and employ domestic tools that address discrimination.

In the United States, we have established robust legal mechanisms that protect individual liberties and defend against discrimination and violence. We have a public school system that educates our children about our history and teaches the next generation of Americans the importance of respect, civil rights, and fundamental freedoms. We have developed a culture that celebrates diversity, rather than one that denounces it. The American spirit and the American dream are what unite us, and our differences – and the freedom to be different – make us stronger. As Secretary Rex Tillerson has said, “racism is evil; it is antithetical to America’s values; it is antithetical to the American idea. So, we condemn racism and bigotry in all its forms.” From our own experience and history, the United States remains convinced that the best antidote to offensive speech is in fact free speech—not bans and censorship but a free society where goodness and justice have the opportunity to triumph over evil and persecution.

We regret that we cannot support this resolution on such an important topic, but our concerns are well known and have been repeated year after year. Among our chief concerns about the resolution are its endorsements of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action as well as the outcome of the Durban review conference, particularly its unfair and unacceptable singling out of Israel and its endorsement of overbroad restrictions on freedom of speech and expression. This resolution serves as a vehicle to prolong the divisions caused by the Durban conference and its follow-up, rather than providing a comprehensive and inclusive way forward for the international community to combat the scourge of racism and racial discrimination. In addition, we cannot accept the resolution’s legally incorrect implication that any and all reservations to Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination are per se contrary to the object and purpose of the treaty. We reiterate that this resolution has no effect as a matter of international law.

Finally, we underscore our concerns about the additional costs this resolution will impose on the UN’s regular budget through the request for reactivation of the Independent Eminent Experts’ activities. In view of the significant constraints on the UN’s regular budget and the limited ability of member states to provide increasing amounts of resources, we stress the need for this body to consider carefully the resource implications of such requests before making them.

For all of these reasons, we cannot support this resolution and will vote no as we have consistently done for years. We will, however, continue to denounce hate and to support free societies that promote individual liberties and defend against discrimination and violence.

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