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U.S. Pleased to Co-Sponsor HRC Resolution on Rights of the Child
March 22, 2013

Rights of the Child

U.S. General Comment
As Delivered by
Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

The United States is extremely pleased to co-sponsor the “Rights of the Child resolution: the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health,” and thanks the co-sponsors for their collaboration during the negotiations.  We are glad to see the resolution calls upon States to increase their efforts to address child and maternal mortality and apply a human rights-based approach in this regard, which we understand to mean an approach anchored in a system of rights and corresponding obligations established by international human rights law.

The United States remains deeply engaged in promoting healthy children both domestically and internationally.  We look forward to continuing to work with other nations and international partners to ensure that all children live a healthy life, that their human rights are respected, and that they grow up in a world that they deserve. In September 2010, the UN launched the Secretary General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health in order to accelerate progress towards the advancement of the fourth and fifth Millennium Development Goals.  Supporting the strategy, the United States, Ethiopia, and India, in collaboration with UNICEF, convened the Child Survival Call to Action last June that urged countries to embrace the goal of ultimately ending all preventable child deaths.  To date, more than 160 governments have signed this pledge, and we are continuing to work with our partners to see the progress continue. In April 2012, the United States launched the “Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday” awareness raising campaign.  The United States also remains the largest government donor to UNICEF, focusing largely on vaccination campaigns and work on child survival.  Over the past year, we have contributed more than $345 million to UNICEF, including large contributions to emergency appeals and to support worldwide immunization efforts.

Today we co-sponsor this resolution with the express understanding that it does not imply that States must become parties to instruments to which they are not a party or implement obligations under human rights instruments to which they are not a party.  Furthermore, to the extent that it is implied in this resolution, the United States does not recognize the creation of any rights or principles that we have not previously recognized, the expansion of the content or coverage of existing rights or principles, or any other change in the current state of treaty or customary international law.   Further we understand the resolution’s reaffirmation of prior documents to apply to those who affirmed them initially.  We read this resolution’s references to the right to safe drinking water and sanitation in accordance with our September 27, 2012 statement in Geneva on this topic and our July 27, 2011 statement in New York at the UNGA plenary meeting.

The resolution also recognizes the harmful effects of armed conflict on children, and we emphasize that all parties to armed conflict must comply strictly with their obligations under international law, in particular international humanitarian law.  In accordance with those obligations, parties to armed conflict must refrain from making protected civilians and civilian objects, including children and schools, the target of attack.

Finally, we wish to underscore that we have agreed to this resolution’s invitation to the World Health Organization to prepare a study concerning children’s mortality and human rights on the express understanding that this invitation does not represent a precedent. In this instance, we have agreed to this invitation on the understanding that WHO is ready and prepared to accept it, and has sufficient resources to do so.  While the topic of child mortality is an important topic and we welcome WHO’s collaboration with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on matters of human rights and health, we underscore that OHCHR has the primary mandate for the
promotion and protection of human rights and is the appropriate body for this Council to invite to prepare reports.  OHCHR must remain in the lead on human-rights reporting.