Explanation of Vote on the Resolution “Promoting Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms Through a Better Understanding of Traditional Values of Humankind”
Statement by the United States
As Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
September 27, 2012
21st Session of the Human Rights Council
Thank you. As we have said in the past, the concept of Traditional Values, not anchored to, or in conformity with, human rights law, undermines the universal principles enshrined in international human rights instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and can have a particularly negative effect on the rights of women, minorities, LGBT individuals, and other vulnerable groups. We continue to have concerns about this resolution, and, for the following reasons, we will request a vote and will vote NO.
First, as the Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee noted in its initial Report (footnote 42), the common set of values of humankind are those in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Second, we are also concerned, as was the Advisory Committee in its initial report, that the term “Traditional Values” has no internationally agreed-upon definition. The term has thus far been vague and open-ended and, as the Advisory Committee recognized, it could be used to legitimize human rights abuses.
Third, we also observe that the resolution quotes selectively from the Advisory Committee initial Report, disregarding core themes, thus presenting the Committee’s conclusions in a wholly imbalanced and distorted manner. By way of example, and there are many, the initial Report makes the following salient points, all of which were ignored in the resolution:
Paragraph 40: “[I]t was equally necessary to recognize that some practices and attitudes at odds with human dignity also derived from traditional values.”
Paragraph 41: “Those who benefit most from the status quo are more likely to appeal to tradition … while those most marginalized and disenfranchised have the most to lose from a traditional values approach to human rights.”
Paragraph 43: “[T]hose who challenge gender roles reinforced by values said to be traditional, cultural, or religious are particularly subject to violence and abuse of human rights.”
Paragraph 48: “The negative impact of traditional values can be felt not only in non-Western countries… Traditional and cultural values in Western countries propagate harmful practices, such as domestic violence.”
Paragraph 74: “[T]raditional Values must never be presented as a substitute for international standards, given the generally vague, subjective, and unclear framing of values when compared to human rights.”
Paragraph 77: “In international human rights law, responsibility describes the State’s obligation to promote and protect all human rights for all people. States have a responsibility to take sustained and systematic action to modify or eliminate stereotypes and negative traditional values and practices, and are encouraged to identify progress in this regard when reporting to international human rights monitoring mechanisms.”
For these reasons, the United States will vote NO on this resolution.