U.S. Joins Consensus on Resolution on the Right to Food

As delivered by Julianna Bentes

Human Rights Council 22nd Session
Geneva,
March 21, 2013

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States joins consensus on this annual resolution on the right to food in recognition of our ongoing support for and leading role in the broader goal of worldwide food and nutrition security. We recognize the importance of maintaining a focus on global food security in order to realize our vision of a world free from hunger. However, we are disappointed that this resolution continues to employ language that distracts from the larger issues at play.  For instance, statements on trade and trade negotiations are inappropriate for the Human Rights Council to address, as they are both beyond the subject-matter and the expertise of this Council.  We also wish to clarify that this resolution today 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.

Nonetheless, we are pleased that both this resolution and the Special Rapporteur’s report emphasize the important link between the empowerment of women and the progressive realization of the right to food in the context of national food security.  Empowering women and improving global food security are key foreign policy objectives of the United States.  Whether it be through our Feed the Future Initiative, programs to support women entrepreneurs in Africa and in
the Americas, or our programs that seek to help achieve the hunger and poverty-related MDGs, the United States is committed to incorporating a gender equality perspective in our efforts to address the root causes of hunger and poverty and to forge long-term solutions to chronic food insecurity and undernutrition.

For more than a decade the United States has been the world’s largest food aid donor.  We do not concur with any reading of this resolution or related documents that would suggest that states have particular extraterritorial obligations arising from a right to food.  Rather we pursue such a role because we understand that in order to advance global stability and prosperity we must all work together to improve the most basic of human conditions: the need that families and individuals have for a reliable source of quality food and sufficient resources to purchase it.

The United States asserts that this resolution over-emphasizes the term “global food crisis,” when in fact we are not in one globally, thereby detracting from arguably more important and relevant challenges.  Factors such as long-term conflicts, lack of strong governing institutions, and systems that deter investment plague many regions and contribute significantly to the recurring state of regional food insecurity.  Similarly, the current high and volatile food prices we see in some parts of the world are another significant contributor to food insecurity.  Yet these issues are not even mentioned in the resolution.

We would also like to take the opportunity to note that the text contains many references to obligations on the part of donor nations and investors.  We believe that a well-balanced text would also include references to obligations of nations receiving assistance – specifically regarding transparency, accountability, and good governance, as well as the obligation to create an environment conducive to investment in agriculture.

As we have stated here in previous years, as well as in a wide variety of fora, we support the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including food, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

However, we must take this opportunity to reiterate that 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. Overall, we view the right to food as a desirable policy goal; it is our objective to achieve a world where everyone has adequate access to food.  We do not, however, 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).  We interpret this resolutions 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.

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 statements.

Finally, we interpret this resolution’s reaffirmation of previous documents, resolutions, and related human rights mechanisms as applicable to the extent countries affirmed them in the first place.

By robbing people of a healthy and productive life and stunting the development of the next generation, hunger leads to devastating consequences for individuals, families, communities, and nations. Therefore, despite the many concerns that we have, the United States will not block consensus on this sprawling resolution.  We are committed to investing in a wide variety of approaches to sustainably reducing hunger and poverty around the world.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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