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EOP of the United States on the Right to Food
March 25, 2011

United States Explanation of Position

on the Right to Food

Human Rights Council 16th Session

March 25, 2011

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States is pleased to be able to join consensus on this resolution on the right to food. Food is essential to the rights of all people to an adequate standard of living, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and is also an interdependent with the protection of other human rights. Combating global hunger and promoting food security is a key foreign policy objective of President Obama and his Administration, and we strongly support the themes expressed in this resolution, including food security and the importance of ensuring adequate access to food. The United States is committed to accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, including by investing in country plans to boost agricultural development as a means for achieving the hunger and poverty-related MDG–reducing by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and who live in extreme poverty by 2015.

Our government’s commitment to provide for the basic social and economic needs of our people is clear, and it reflects the will of the American people. Public authorities throughout the United States take significant measures to support access to food and food production in the United States, including prohibiting discrimination in such programs, and these are protected by law. It is in this spirit we join consensus. Securing the right to food must be achieved progressively, given the resources available to each government, through transparent and democratic processes. But we will also stress that nothing justifies a government’s indifference to its own people. We stated our position on the right to food under international law last year, in response to resolution 13/4.

We note that this resolution continues to include a large number of extraneous and inappropriate topics which do little to protect or contribute to the progressive realization of the right to food. For example, this year’s text added significant emphasis on the advancement of the rights of people working in rural areas. While not minimizing the importance of this topic, it is not an appropriate subject to be addressed by this resolution, nor is the resolution’s request for further study of the rights of people working in rural areas and other topics necessary.

Further, this resolution reiterates previous language on a continuing world food crisis. Whereas we agree that we are experiencing a period of food and commodity price volatility, we, along with many other members of the world community, do not believe we are currently in a food crisis. This has been reinforced by such UN bodies as the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) which have issued warnings about high food prices and price volatility but have made clear that the current situation is not a crisis. Moreover, the causes of this volatility vary and we do not see speculation as a major cause. The language in this resolution does not reflect this.

Several unattributed statements of a technical or scientific nature in this resolution, such as those providing statistics on numbers of malnourished and hungry people, and those describing the effects of climate change on food production, also raise concerns. Institutionally, the Human Rights Council lacks the technical expertise and subject-matter knowledge required to make such statements on its own, nor does it have fact-finding mechanisms, so we believe that such statements should be either attributed to some other body with competence to make the relevant findings, or omitted. The United States does not necessarily agree with such unattributed technical or scientific statements.

We share the resolution’s concerns about the ability of producers and farmers to sell their products, in the sense that improvements to market access can contribute greatly to achieving food security. Improving access to markets and improving the functioning of markets are important components of the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future. Several paragraphs also call for action or consideration of issues on the part of international organizations. We believe that these organizations should act on these recommendations in ways they would consider appropriate in view of their larger missions.

While we join this resolution’s welcoming the work of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including its General Comment No. 12, we note significant disagreements with some portions of its work and that General Comment.

With respect to this resolution’s statements regarding trade and trade negotiations, the United States believes that trade negotiations are beyond both the subject-matter and the expertise of the Human Rights Council and, hence, that such statements are inappropriate for the Council. In light of them, it is appropriate here to reaffirm that the United States is committed to international trade liberalization and to achieving an ambitious and balanced conclusion to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha Round negotiations. By joining consensus on this resolution, we support the new market opening that can be achieved through international trade agreements, including the Doha Round, which in turn can generate the economic growth necessary to spur development. At the same time, we wish to clarify that this resolution will in no way undermine or modify the commitments of the United States or any other government to existing trade agreements or the mandates of ongoing trade negotiations. To be clear, it is the U.S. position that a free and open world trade system, under appropriate rules, can have significant benefits in the area of food security.

Thank you, Mr. President.