Advisor for Political Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 2, 2020
Thank you, Mr. President.
The United States delegation would like to offer an explanation of position for A.75/L28, the “Follow-up to the Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace,” as well as an explanation of vote for A.75/L36/Rev 1, “Promotion of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, Understanding and Cooperation for Peace.”
On the first resolution:
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. We note that as of December 31, 2018 the United States withdrew from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, 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.
This concludes our explanation of position on A.75/L28, the “Follow-up to the Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace.” Next, I will turn to our explanation of vote on A.75/L36/Rev 1, “Promotion of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, Understanding and Cooperation for Peace.”
The United States firmly supports efforts to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue and cooperation. We thank the Philippines and Pakistan for their initiative in tabling this text on an important topic that is of key interest to all UN delegations.
We would like to take this opportunity to explain our decision to abstain and to clarify important points.
We note that recent years have marked a growing departure from previous approaches, including the approach established in HRC resolution 16/18 and the Istanbul Process, which are widely supported and offer a comprehensive roadmap to combating religious intolerance while protecting freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief. We have concerns about the potential for further diminution of such consensus approaches in this and other resolutions that have been tabled at this General Assembly.
The United States strongly supports the freedoms of expression and religion or belief. We oppose any attempts to unduly limit the exercise of these fundamental freedoms. In that context, we continue to have strong reservations about Operative Paragraph 13, where the text suggests that protections for freedoms of expression and religion or belief are at odds with one another. We strongly believe that protecting the freedom of religion and the freedom of expression promotes mutual respect and pluralism and is essential to human dignity and a robust civil society. We firmly believe that all people should be free to choose and practice their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and heart. Freedom of religion plays an important societal role and is crucial to the creation of tolerant and respectful societies. These two freedoms are mutually reinforcing and both must be respected in order to achieve mutual respect and meaningful interreligious and intercultural dialogue. 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 religious hatred and violence.
The United States strongly believes in working together to build a more secure and peaceful world through the promotion of justice, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Regarding the invocation of “moderation” in Operative Paragraph 12, we are concerned that the implementation of moderation-focused programs and policies could be subject to abuse. In particular, we are concerned that such programs and policies could undermine enjoyment of freedoms of expression and thought, conscience and religion, or belief.
We also note that as of December 31, 2018, the United States withdrew from UNESCO and is no longer a UNESCO member state. We also refer you to our remarks delivered on November 18, 2020, regarding our position with respect to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Nevertheless, we reiterate our appreciation for the efforts of the Philippines and Pakistan in tabling this resolution on interreligious dialogue. The United States remains committed to working with Member States to promote tolerance and understanding.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.