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Item 9: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia
September 24, 2013

Item 9: “Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action”

Delivered by the Delegation of the United States of America

Human Rights Council 24th Session
September 24, 2013

Thank you, Madam Vice President.

As the High Commissioner noted in her Opening Statement to this session of the Human Rights Council, this year commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington.  That day, hundreds of thousands of Americans, of all races, traveled to the capital to call for an end to racially discriminatory laws and practices.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s soaring call for a more just and equal world reverberated through the United States and across the globe.  In the past 50 years, the United States has changed dramatically and has specifically implemented legislation to combat racial discrimination.

The United States is firmly committed to combating racism.  We endeavor to uphold the human rights of all people, and are fully engaged to overcome the scourges of racial discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance.  We are prepared to work with all countries, including through the United Nations system, to learn from their experiences and share best practices to collectively promote the human rights of all individuals.

While our reservations about the outcomes of the Durban process are well-known, particularly the endorsement of undue restrictions on freedom of expression and the explicit and unfair focus on Israel, our commitment to working with the international community to combat racial discrimination and racism remains strong.

In his famous speech, Dr. King urged that, “now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.”  His call has inspired the United States to action, and in this spirit, we have worked to engage international partners to share expertise.  Two weeks ago in Birmingham, Alabama, the site of one of the darkest chapters in the history of the civil rights struggle in our country, the United States Conference of Mayors launched a U.S. network of UNESCO’s International Coalition of Cities Against Racism and Discrimination, a program to bring together local and municipal leaders across the world to address racial intolerance.  Since then, more than 50 cities have already joined the network.

We are making steady progress, but much remains to be done as we continue the important work of ending racial discrimination.  As President Obama noted last month in a ceremony honoring Dr. King and the thousands who took part in the peaceful demonstration, “the March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history, that we are masters of our fate.”

Thank you Madam Vice President.