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Statement by Ambassador Tichenor to the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination
February 21, 2008

UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Opening Statement Delivered by Ambassador Warren W. Tichenor
Permanent Representative of the United States of America
to the United Nations and International Organizations

Madame Chair, distinguished members of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, representatives of civil society organizations, ladies and gentlemen:

I am Warren Tichenor, Ambassador and the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations Mission in Geneva.

The United States Government strongly supports the elimination of racial discrimination at home and abroad. For our Nation was founded by people of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all people are created equal, and that the rights of every person are diminished when the rights of one person are threatened. It is therefore an honor for me to participate in this important event. While we can point with pride to the strides we have made in fulfilling America’s promise of the equality of all people, neither can we overlook that we still have significant work to do – and must remain eternally vigilant in pursuing the cause of fulfilling this promise. We will address these points in the report we are prepared to share with you today. We will have the opportunity to discuss the specific actions taken in the United States since the year 2000 to address racial and ethnic discrimination in our nation.

I would like to welcome – and to introduce to you – the large senior-level delegation from the United States who have traveled to Geneva many of whom have made the cause of eliminating Racial Discrimination their life’s work. The delegation represents six agencies of the U.S. federal government – the Departments of State, Justice, Interior, Homeland Security, and Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These are among the many agencies of the U.S. government that have responsibilities for implementing the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Although not physically present, many more agencies helped write our report and prepare for this session, including the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development. In addition, for the first time in a presentation of a U.S. human rights treaty report, our delegation includes a representative of one of our fifty states – the State of Illinois. The states of the United States, as well as other governmental entities such as its cities and counties, are critical partners in taking action against discrimination. Finally, we have called on the expertise of several private sector representatives, including one of your former colleagues on this Committee and a former Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice, Ralph Boyd.

We are delighted to be here today and tomorrow to share information and to participate in a dialogue with the Committee about how the United States implements the Convention and, more broadly, to discuss a wide range of our activities to combat racial and ethnic discrimination and other matters of interest to the Committee. As reflected in our prior appearance before the Committee in 2001, while there may be questions of legal interpretation about which reasonable people may differ, we fully share the vision of Committee and of those who negotiated this Convention that strong, concerted efforts are needed to eliminate the scourge of racial discrimination. The size, level, and composition of this delegation – and the truly intense effort that its members and many of their colleagues have devoted to preparing the report and responding at length to the Committee’s questions – are simply one manifestation of the seriousness with which my Government takes its obligations under the Convention. I would add that the strong showing of representatives from U.S. non-governmental and civil society organizations here demonstrates the seriousness with which the American people treat the elimination of racial discrimination.

The United States is a vibrant, multi-racial and multi-ethnic democracy, in which individuals have the right to be protected against discrimination based on race, color and national origin in virtually every aspect of public life. The U.S. Constitution and federal law, plus the constitutions and laws of the states and many other governmental bodies prohibit discrimination in a broad array of areas. As noted in the report, the United States has made significant progress in improving race relations in the past, and we continue to work actively to eliminate racial and ethnic discrimination. We would be the first to acknowledge, however, that challenges still exist, and that a great deal of work remains to be done. Our challenge and opportunity remains to turn America’s vision of a society in which no person has to suffer discrimination based on race into a permanent, living reality everywhere in our land.

I am honored to introduce Grace Chung Becker, the Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, who will speak for the delegation, to make her opening remarks.

Thank you, Madame Chair.