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US Joins Consensus on HRC Resolution on the Right to Food
Explanation of Position by the United States of America
March 22, 2012

Resolution: The Right to Food

UN Human Rights Council – 19th Session

Geneva, Switzerland

Thank you, Madame President.  The United States joins consensus, despite some concerns, on this resolution on the right to food.

Improving global food security is a key foreign policy objective of the Obama Administration.  The U.S. Government has launched the Feed the Future initiative, and has pledged at least $3.5 billion over three years to help our partner countries improve the entire agriculture value chain – from fields to markets to homes.  And that is the central pillar of our commitment to sustainable solutions to hunger.

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.

With respect to this resolution’s statements regarding trade and trade negotiations, the United States reiterates 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.  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 highlight that opening markets through international trade agreements and attaining the goal of the Doha Round to establish a market-oriented trading system, which is also noted in the FAO’s Voluntary Right to Food GUIDELINE 19, can play a major role in the promotion of economic development, and the alleviation of poverty and improving food security at the national level. 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 on-going trade negotiations.

Similarly, the United States wishes to reiterate its view that the implementation of the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) supports comprehensive approaches to food security by encouraging policies that will enable countries to use tools and incentives, including biotechnology, that increase agricultural productivity.  By joining consensus on this resolution, we support countries’ continued implementation of the TRIPS Agreement, which provides for patent and plant variety protection systems that generate many benefits for researchers, producers, consumers, and society, in the drive to promote global food security.
This resolution reiterates previous language on a continuing world food crisis.  Whereas we are experiencing a period of food and commodity price volatility in some parts of the world, we, along with many other members of the world community, do not believe we are currently in a world 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 world food crisis. Furthermore, while the resolution as drafted identifies a number of factors that contribute to food insecurity, it omits the very significant and undisputed role of conflict and lack of governance in causing regional food insecurity.
We support the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including food, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The United States is not a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and joining consensus on this resolution does not recognize any change in the current state of conventional or customary international law regarding rights related to food.   It is our objective to achieve a world where everyone has adequate access to food, but we do not treat the right to food as an enforceable obligation. We interpret this resolution’s references to the right to food, with respect to States Parties to the aforementioned Covenant, in light of its Article 2(1), in which they undertake to take steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of economic, social, and cultural rights.  We interpret this resolution’s references to member States’ obligations regarding the right to food as applicable to the extent they have assumed such obligations.

Furthermore, while we take note of the work of the Advisory Committee, including its work on the human rights of urban poor people, we believe that its work is duplicative and wasteful of other UN entities.  Instead, we should be taking into account relevant authoritative UN outcome documents, such as the FAO’s State of Food and Agriculture and State of Food Insecurity reports, and the Comprehensive Framework for Action of the Secretary General’s High Level Task Force.

And while the United States has for the last decade been the world’s largest food aid donor, we do not concur with any reading of this resolution that would suggest that states have particular extraterritorial obligations arising from a right to food.  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.  We interpret this resolution’s reaffirmation of previous documents as applicable to the extent countries affirmed those documents in the first place.

We also reiterate our concern about unattributed statements of a technical or scientific nature in this resolution.  The United States does not necessarily agree with such unattributed statements.

With all of these concerns in mind, the United States will not block consensus, given our support and leading role on the broader goal of food security worldwide.