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HRC – Agenda Item 3: Promotion of Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
March 12, 2010

The United Nations Human Rights Council – 13th Session

“Promotion of human rights: civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development”

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Human Rights Council 13th Session

Statement delivered by John C. Mariz
Geneva, March 11, 2010

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States has a firm commitment to the protection and promotion of all human rights.  Our Secretary of State recently expressed our firm belief that “people must be free from the oppression of tyranny, from torture, from discrimination, from the fear of leaders who will imprison or “disappear” them.  But they also must be free from the oppression of want – want of food, want of health, want of education, and want of equality in law and in fact.”

The United States has put this firm belief into practice through our strong and long-standing commitment to support development internationally, and we are the world’s largest bilateral donor of overseas development assistance.  The promotion of development and human security is one of the crucial pillars of our foreign policy.  While our views on the right to development may differ from those of some other countries, we remain focused on seeking ways to improve the mechanisms that promote human rights centered development and contribute to the eradication of poverty around the world.  We look forward to continuing our engagement on this vital issue.

In the months since the last Council session, we have witnessed disturbing reminders that combating discrimination requires our urgent attention.  We are deeply disturbed with the recent targeting of members of religious minorities and outbreaks of inter-religious violence in virtually every region of the world.  These worrying developments demonstrate the need for the international community to take concerted action to challenge stereotyping, discrimination, and violence motivated by racial or religious hatred with an action-oriented approach that combats discrimination and intolerance, in particular toward members of racial and religious minorities.

To that end, we look forward to continuing the constructive dialogue that we began last fall with the resolution on Freedom of Opinion and Expression that the Council passed by consensus.  Our country has learned from its own imperfect past that free expression, including religious expression, strengthens social stability by fostering a climate of respect and understanding among diverse communities. We hope that this session of the Council will take an action-oriented approach to combating discrimination and intolerance while equally promoting and protecting universal rights of freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

We continue to be seriously concerned with the efforts to promote and codify the concept of “defamation of religions” at the UN.  We believe it is inconsistent with freedom of expression and religious freedom, and has been used to justify restrictions on human rights, including, ironically, on the free practice of religion.   The United States believes it is the duty of all governments to respect the ability of every individual to profess and practice his or her own faith, and we applaud the efforts of so many UN Member States that are actively doing so.  We have also seen first hand that discrimination and violence can be exacerbated by ignorance, intolerance and fear of persons with different religious faiths.

We believe that governments have the tools to address intolerance at their disposal, and that these include a combination of robust legal protections against discrimination and hate crimes, proactive government outreach to minorities – including educating them on their means of redress – and the vigorous defense of the freedoms of expression and religion without discrimination.

We are deeply committed to addressing concerns of intolerance and discrimination and are eager to work with other members of the Council on efforts that would target the real problem of racial and religious intolerance and the negative impact that such discrimination has on the lives of individuals around the world.

Thank you, Mr. President.