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U.S. Explanation of Position on Resolution on The Right to Food
March 26, 2015

Item 3:  Resolution Entitled “The Right to Food” A/HRC/28/L.16

Explanation of Position by the Delegation of the United States of America

Human Rights Council 28th Session

Geneva, March 26, 2015

By robbing people of a healthy and productive life and stunting the development of the next generation, hunger and malnutrition has devastating consequences for individuals, families, communities, and nations.   The United States believes that maintaining a focus on global food and nutrition security is essential to realize our vision of a world free from hunger and malnutrition and pursues domestic and international policies that reflect that view.  In joining consensus on this resolution today, the United States reiterates our commitment to pursuing a variety of approaches to reduce hunger and address poverty sustainably.

Despite our broad support for policy initiatives to end hunger and malnutrition, we have several concerns about this resolution.  It contains numerous references to “the world food crisis,” yet no such global crisis exists.  Factors such as long-term conflicts, lack of strong governing institutions, and systems that deter investment and innovation contribute significantly to the recurring state of food insecurity in some parts of the world.  We regret that this resolution does not even mention those issues.

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, for example, the availability of technical and other assistance.  The United States also does 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.  We further understand that culturally acceptable food is food that corresponds to individual and collective consumer demand and preferences, in line with national and international law as applicable.

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.  We also underscore our view that the statements in this resolution on trade and trade negotiations and negotiations in other fields are inappropriate, 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 or other agreements or the mandates of ongoing trade or other negotiations.

The United States supports the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including food, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  In joining consensus on this resolution, the United States does not recognize any change in the current state of conventional or customary international law regarding rights related to food.  The United States is not a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Accordingly, we interpret this resolution’s references to the right to food, with respect to States Parties to that Covenant, in light of its Article 2(1).  We also construe this resolution’s references to member states’ obligations regarding the right to food as applicable to the extent they have assumed such obligations.  Domestically, the United States pursues policies that promote access to food, and 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.

Finally, while this resolution reaffirms previous documents, resolutions, and related human rights mechanisms, that language applies only to the extent countries affirmed them in the first place. Thank you, Mr. President.