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U.S. Looks Forward to Enhanced Cooperation on Vital Issue of Combatting Religious Intolerance
March 22, 2013

Combating Intolerance (Resolution 16/18)
As Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

General Comment by the Delegation of the United States

The United States joins consensus on this important resolution on combating intolerance, discrimination, and violence on the basis of religion or belief. We thank Pakistan as Chair of the OIC Group in Geneva for its leadership on maintaining this significant consensus. We also thank OIC Secretary General Ihsanoglu for all of his efforts to build and maintain this consensus, and to promote its implementation.

For the third year in a row, this Council has affirmed the Resolution 16/18 consensus on a range of positive steps that states should take to address the glaring challenges of intolerance, discrimination, and violence on the basis of religion or belief without infringing on the fundamental freedoms of expression and religion. All too often today we hear of places of worship being attacked, of individuals belonging to minority religious communities facing violence and discrimination because of their beliefs, and of repressive laws infringing on the freedoms of religion and expression.

The steps called for in this resolution – such as protecting places of worship, enforcing anti-discrimination laws, and speaking out against intolerance – are critical in addressing these pressing concerns in a manner that protects universal human rights. This consensus has moved this Council away from the divisive and unacceptable approach of encouraging restrictions on speech as a way to address intolerance, to an approach that recognizes that protection of human rights for all individuals is essential to promote tolerance and understanding. We have worked with many partners to promote implementation of the specific actions called for in this resolution. And we continue to promote such action through assistance and training programs, and through participation in the Istanbul process of experts meetings to identify best practices. We urge states to redouble their efforts to put these steps into practice.

The United States stands ready to work positively with other states to realize our shared goals of complete religious tolerance and an end to violence and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.  We look forward to enhanced cooperation and consultation on this vital issue.  Thank you.