Item 3: Resolution Entitled “Human rights and the environment,” A/HRC/25/L.31
Explanation of Position by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by David Sullivan
Human Rights Council 25th Session
Geneva, March 28, 2014
We would like to thank Costa Rica and the other members of the core group for their exemplary, transparent and open handling of the negotiations on this important resolution.
The United States continues to agree with other members of the Council that protection of the environment and its contribution to sustainable development, human well-being, and the enjoyment of human rights are vitally important. In this spirit, we join consensus on this resolution.
At the same time, we remain concerned regarding the general approach of placing environmental concerns in a human rights context and about addressing them in fora that do not have the necessary expertise. For related reasons, while we recognize the efforts of the independent expert and UN bodies in this area, we do not agree with a number of aspects of their work.
We are also concerned about certain elements in the final text. For example, while sustainable development is a goal we all aim to achieve, the concerns of the United States about the existence of a “right to development” are long-standing and well known – the “right to development” does not have an agreed international meaning. Furthermore, work is needed to make it consistent with human rights, which the international community recognizes as universal rights held and enjoyed by individuals and which every individual may demand from his or her own government.
We interpret this resolution’s references to the obligations of States as applicable only to the extent the State has assumed such obligations by becoming party to various human rights instruments. In joining consensus on this resolution the United States does not recognize any change in the current state of conventional or customary international law. Furthermore, we reiterate that States are responsible for implementing their human rights obligations. This is true of all obligations that a State has assumed, regardless of external factors, including the availability of technical and other assistance.