Item 9 General Debate
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
As Delivered by Ambassador Keith Harper
UN Human Rights Council – 26th Session
Geneva, June 18, 2014
The United States is firmly committed to combating racism in all its forms.
We endeavor to uphold the human rights of all individuals, and are fully engaged to overcome the banes of racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance.
The history of slavery in the United States and the subsequent historical racism against African-Americans is well-known and documented.
Fortunately, we have witnessed tremendous progress in combating this scourge over the last 50 years, though more can still be accomplished.
Equally well-documented, but perhaps less well-known, is the history of racism against Native Americans in the United States, our own indigenous peoples.
As they were in many parts of the world, our indigenous people in the United States were, among other things, stripped of their land, forced to re-locate, deprived of both their right to worship freely and to govern their own affairs.
We all agree that racism is insidious no matter what group of people it is directed against.
Seven years ago, when the General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP), member states acknowledged these historical injustices and committed to rectifying them.
The fact is that the legacy of the harsh, often brutal treatment of indigenous peoples continues to manifest itself in policies which deny indigenous peoples their rights.
The upcoming World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September will be an excellent opportunity for states to discuss solutions to this legacy directly with the people concerned.
Whether it be through denial of equal access to housing, discriminatory education policies, inhibiting religious freedom, or lack of equal opportunity for employment, indigenous peoples in many countries still suffer from enduring racism.
Some indigenous peoples cannot practice their traditional religions or use their traditional languages because of restrictions that governments have imposed on their entire societies.
Others find that their sacred sites central to their religious traditions are not protected by governments in the same manner as churches, temples and mosques are.
Women in indigenous communities often suffer the most from the lack of respect for their human rights, enduring a level of violence greater than in the rest of society.
To help address this issue, the 2010 Tribal Law and Order Act included improvements to enhance the investigation and prosecution of crimes affecting indigenous communities.
The law in the United States known as the Violence Against Women Act was re-authorized with a groundbreaking provision allowing indigenous tribes to prosecute non-Native perpetrators of violence against indigenous women for acts that occur on tribal lands.
That law illuminates one approach to tackling the problem of this enduring discrimination: empoweromh of indigenous peoples to regulate the affairs on their own lands.
We are making progress in the U.S. in addressing the issue of racial discrimination against our indigenous peoples.
We hope all the member states of the United Nations who have indigenous populations devote equal attention to these issues, not just to protect indigenous cultures, but to protect indigenous individuals’ human rights as well.