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U.S. Explanation of Position on Human Rights and the Environment
March 24, 2017

Human Rights and the Environment


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 24, 2017

The United States agrees with other members of the Council that protection of the environment is important to sustainable development, human well-being, and the enjoyment of human rights.  In this spirit, we join consensus on this resolution.

As is common with a new Administration, the United States is reviewing many of its policies.  Pending review of U.S. policies relating to climate change and the Paris Agreement, the United States reserves its position on language in this resolution relating to these issues.

At the same time, we remain concerned about 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 Special Rapporteur and UN bodies in this area, we do not agree with a number of aspects of their work.

With respect to preambular paragraph 17, we reaffirm the U.S. views expressed upon adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals with respect to sustainable consumption and production and emphasize that this paragraph must be understood as referring to the need to enhance national policies aimed at fostering resource efficiency and sustainability in a manner appropriate to each country’s national circumstances.

We also note our long-standing interpretation of Principle 7 of the Rio Declaration, to the effect that the principle does not imply any diminution in the environmental responsibilities of developing countries.  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.

We note the longstanding and well known concerns of the United States regarding the “right to development,” which we have already raised in our explanation of position on the resolution on the question of the realization of economic, social and cultural rights.

Finally, we are concerned about the high costs this resolution will incur, especially the ones relating to the expert seminar called for in operative paragraph 9.  Accordingly, we request OHCHR to minimize additional costs by absorbing them as much as possible into existing funds.

Thank you, Mr. President.