Advisor for Political Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 21, 2021
Mr. Chairman, the United States strongly believes in encouraging a culture of peace through the promotion of justice, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as by rejecting violence and addressing the root causes of conflict. In recognition of these values, we support this resolution on “Promoting a Culture of Peace and Tolerance to Safeguard Religious Sites.” We thank the Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Morocco for their leadership on this text and for their work to ensure that this text reflects the views of all United Nations delegations.
The United States is a strong proponent of the protection of religious sites and was a co-sponsor of UN General Assembly resolution 55/254 on this subject. We continue to support the underlying premise of this resolution but are concerned about its many references to limits on or condemning speech and at times equating speech to acts of violence. Odious or offensive speech is not in itself a form of violence and describing it as such should not be used as a means to justify the suppression of speech or the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. Rather than seek restrictions to expression to deal with intolerance or hate speech, the United States advocates for robust protections for speech, as well as the enforcement of appropriate legal regimes that deal with discriminatory acts and hate crimes. We remind Member States that, as recognized in the Istanbul Process, the open, constructive and respectful debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue at the local, national and international levels, can play a positive role in combating violence and religious hatred.
Regarding the reference in Operative Paragraph eight to “programs and agendas pursued by extremist individuals,” the United States understands this paragraph to refer specifically to “violent extremist individuals.”
Additionally, the United States is pleased to join the European Union’s statement concerning this resolution, and recalls that the rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression are mutually reinforcing and complementary. Any restrictions on these rights must be consistent with states’ obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.