An official website of the United States government

EOP on the Respect of Cultural Diversity
June 13, 2013

Explanation of position on the resolution entitled

“Promotion of the Enjoyment of the Cultural Rights of Everyone and Respect for Cultural Diversity”

delivered by Ambassador Eileen Donahoe
U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council

Human Rights Council – 23rd Session

June 13, 2013


Mr. President, the United States continues to support the promotion of cultural diversity, pluralism, tolerance, cooperation and dialogue among people from all cultures. In this spirit, we are pleased to join consensus. Cultural diversity has played a critical role in our own country’s history.  Respect for our differences has contributed to the development of significant legal protections for members of minority groups, which shows that cultural diversity can strengthen human rights.

Human rights are universal, and all governments are responsible for abiding by their obligations under international human rights law. Under the UN Charter, we have committed ourselves not just to respecting human rights law domestically, but to promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms abroad, without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.  We believe that respect for human rights also substantially enhances respect for diversity.

We do have concerns, however, that the concept of cultural diversity, particularly when espoused in a human rights context, could be misused. Cultural diversity should neither be used to undermine or limit the scope of human rights, nor to justify or legitimize human rights abuses. We would like to reinforce that efforts to promote cultural diversity should not infringe on the enjoyment by individuals of their human rights. Instead, cultural diversity and international human rights can be mutually reinforcing concepts that help us all achieve a better world. Certain cultural rights are set forth in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as in other human rights instruments. Notably, in addition to the right of individuals to share in scientific advancement and its benefits referenced in the current resolution, there is a right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production.  Intellectual property rights reflect that latter right, and must be respected.  While the United States is not a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, we note that it states that economic, social and cultural rights are to be progressively realized. Thank you, Mr. President.”