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U.S. Explanation of Position on the Realization of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights
March 23, 2017

A/HRC/34/L4/REV. 1

Explanation of Position by the United States of America,
As Delivered by William J. Mozdzierz,
Head of the U.S. Delegation

Human Rights Council 34th session
Geneva, March 23, 2017

The United States is pleased to join consensus on this resolution concerning the realization of economic, social, and cultural rights.  We engaged in the negotiations that developed this resolution and join consensus today as part of our efforts to work constructively with delegations on these important issues.  We in particular thank the main cosponsors for their cooperative and collaborative approach to the development of this text.

As a matter of public policy, the United States continues to take steps to provide for the economic, social, and cultural needs of its people.

While we share the broad aims of this resolution, the United States is concerned about a few key points in it.  As the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights provides, each State Party undertakes to take the steps set out in Article 2.1 “with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights.”  We interpret this resolution’s references to the obligations of States as applicable only to the extent they have assumed such obligations, and with respect to States Parties to the Covenant, in light of its Article 2(1).  The United States is not party to that Covenant, and the rights contained therein are not justiciable as such in U.S. courts.

The principle of non-discrimination that underpins the very concept of human rights is critical, and one the United States strives continually to fulfill.  We read the references to non-discrimination in this resolution as consistent with Article 2.2 of the Covenant.

While we recognize the importance of social protection floors, we note that countries have a wide array of policies and actions that may be appropriate in promoting the progressive realization of economic, social, and cultural rights.  Therefore, we think that this resolution should not try to define the content of those rights.

The United States also takes this opportunity to reinforce the need for all States to promote, protect, and respect human rights when carrying out their development goals and policies.  In that regard, human rights mechanisms may have the potential to inform national efforts to leave no one behind.  We regret, however, that additional references to “the right to development” were introduced into this resolution and several others under this agenda item.  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, such that its reference in this resolution with respect to issues covered in the Sustainable Development Goals is vague and undefined.  Furthermore, work is needed to make it consistent with human rights, which the international community recognizes as universal rights held and enjoyed by individuals.

Finally, we interpret this resolution’s reaffirmation of previous documents, resolutions, and related human rights mechanisms as applicable to the extent States affirmed them in the first place.  In joining consensus on this resolution, the United States does not recognize any change in the current state of conventional or customary international law.