Remarks at a GA Commemorative Meeting on the Occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
March 25, 2019


Madam President, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I’m honored to join you here today in marking the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. I offer my thanks to the President of the General Assembly for convening this crucial conversation.

The United States is firmly committed to combatting racism and racial discrimination. For us, this commitment is rooted in the saddest chapters of our own history and reflected in the most cherished aspirations of our nation. We’ve come a long way, but fighting racism remains an ongoing challenge.

Today we recommit ourselves to working with civil society, international mechanisms, and all nations of goodwill to combat racism and racial discrimination at home and abroad, to defend equality and human dignity wherever they are threatened. We’ll continue robust implementation of our obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and we’ll continue to support the activities of the International Decade for People of African Descent.

The United States is deeply concerned about speech that advocates national, racial, or religious hatred, particularly when it constitutes incitement to violence, discrimination, or hostility. We’re confident that the best antidote to offensive speech are strong legal protections against racial discrimination and the prosecution of hate crimes and proactive government outreach to racial and religious communities. At the same time, we support vigorous protection of freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. To bring an end to the scourge of racial discrimination, the members of the General Assembly should work together to ensure that such efforts are reinforced and expanded.

The United States is deeply concerned by some States’ practice of targeting minority communities with brutal violence, forced labor, arbitrary surveillance, gross violations of privacy, and mass detention in internment camps – solely on the basis of their race, ethnicity, or religion. Diversity of background and belief should be embraced and celebrated, and a deep respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people must take a central place in our efforts to eliminate racial discrimination. History tells us that this approach promotes not only tolerance and inclusivity, but also economic prosperity, sustainable development, and peaceful coexistence.

I thank you for your attention.