Explanation of Position on a Resolution on Education for Democracy

Jaime Santiago
Advisor for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 21, 2020


Mr. Chairman,

The United States believes that education is transformational for individuals and societies, and that it creates pathways to better health, economic growth, a sustainable environment, and peaceful, democratic societies. On November 15, 2018, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a new education policy aimed at focusing resources on programs that produce measurable learning outcomes for students. The policy also recognizes the important role of non-state actors, including civil society organizations, faith-based and charitable entities, and the private sector, in providing educational opportunities that help students gain access to the education and skills they need to be productive members of society.

The United States joins consensus on the “Education for Democracy” resolution with the express understanding that when this resolution acknowledges the importance of taking measures to ensure various aspects of education, it does so in terms that are mindful of and consistent with the governance framework for education in the United States and our respective federal, state, and local authorities.

We recognize the significant challenges in meeting education needs during the global pandemic. In many instances, non-state schools and providers, which often include faith-based and charitable organizations, are filling gaps that otherwise may be preventing access to education for many children and youth. The United States recognizes non-state schools, including those of faith-based and charitable entities, have an important role in helping to provide access to quality education for children and youth in developing countries.

The U.S. would like to thank the facilitators for working to reach consensus on this resolution. However, we would like to emphasize that the language in OP7 calling for combatting hate speech, discrimination, stigmatization, and more means that states should promote and foster strong counter-narratives [and a robust exchange of ideas] rather than suppressing protected speech and thought. The Trump Administration strongly supports the right to freedom of expression at home and abroad, and we oppose any attempt to unduly limit the exercise of this human right, including freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. Efforts to combat hate speech, stigmatization, and other ideas or speech with which we disagree should not be allowed to lead to unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, or alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens and large public audiences. No state should restrict free thought, impose conformity, and shut down the voices of people. Democracy depends on the free exchange of ideas and the ability to dissent. We robustly protect freedom of expression because the cost of stripping away individual rights is far greater than the cost of tolerating hateful words. The best way to combat intolerant ideas is to have them defeated in a vibrant marketplace of ideas where they fall of their own weight when challenged. In America, the very heart of the education system’s mission is preparing students for life as citizens in a free society. Taxpayer dollars will not subsidize anti-First Amendment institutions, resolutions, or efforts.

We note that as of December 31, 2018, the United States withdrew from UNESCO and is no longer a party to it. In joining consensus on this resolution, we refer you to our remarks delivered on November 20, 2020, regarding our position with respect to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.