U.S. Statement on Racism – HRC36 Resolution L.17

U.S. Statement as delivered by Jason Mack

Human Rights Council 36th Session
Geneva, September 29, 2017 

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States regrets that we must call a vote and vote “no” on this resolution, called “From Rhetoric to Reality.”

The United States remains fully and firmly committed to upholding the human rights of all people and to combating racial discrimination, xenophobia, intolerance, anti-Semitism and bigotry, including by implementing and encouraging all States Parties to implement the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).  We believe the CERD provides comprehensive protections to address all forms of racial discrimination, and we disagree with this resolution’s call for the elaboration of additional standards; instead, States should focus their efforts on implementing the CERD’s existing standards.

We also have significant concerns about other parts of this resolution, many of which are longstanding and well-known. Our objections to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) are among them.

Moreover, we have particular concerns about new calls in this resolution for the prohibition of various forms of speech and expression, including the call to prohibit “advocacy of hatred,” a concept which is ill-defined and which can be and has been used by governments to inappropriately target political opponents and undermine freedom of expression.  The United States remains deeply concerned about speech that advocates national, racial, or religious hatred, particularly when it constitutes incitement to violence, discrimination, or hostility; however, we are also concerned by the resolution’s suggestion that freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right of peaceful assembly should be broadly limited by the substance of the speech or advocacy.  From our own experience and history, the United States remains convinced that the best antidotes to offensive speech are not bans or criminal punishments, but a combination of four key elements:  robust legal protections against discrimination and violent crimes, proactive government outreach to racial and religious communities, a concerted effort with civil society coalitions to drown out hateful and intolerant speech with positive and inclusive messages, and the vigorous protection of freedom of expression, which must be protected equally both on- and off-line.

The United States recognizes that combatting racism and discrimination is not just a domestic issue, it is a challenge every State faces and one we can all work on together to overcome.  We hope that in the future, the Human Rights Council will have opportunities to consider resolutions aimed at that sort of productive cooperation in pursuit of the elimination of racial discrimination.  Accordingly, we call for a vote on this resolution and will vote no, and encourage other members to do the same.

Thank you.