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Explanation of Position on Resolution on the Contribution of Development to the Enjoyment of all Human Rights
June 23, 2017


The contribution of development to the enjoyment of all human rights

Explanation of Position by the United States of America,
as delivered by Jason Mack

UN Human Rights Council – 35th Session
Geneva, June 22, 2017

The United States calls for a vote and will vote “no” on this resolution.

We recognize the role development can have in contributing to the enjoyment of human rights.  But all development, including sustainable development, needs to respect human rights.  We reject any suggestion that development goals could permit countries to deviate from their human rights obligations and commitments.  To this end, we continually encourage all states to implement their human rights obligations and commitments, regardless of level of development.

We note this resolution’s recognition of international instruments relevant to human rights and development, such as the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA).  However, we regret that the resolution draws from these instruments in a selective and imbalanced way that often omits key language that fully explains the relationship between human rights and development, or changes consensus language to materially alter its meaning.  We and others have negotiated in good faith to restore this carefully negotiated balance in this resolution.  The sponsors made only minimal changes to address these concerns and the changes fall far short of achieving balance.

As one example of many, preambular paragraph 5 draws from VDPA paragraph 8, but omits the crucial term “democracy,” and unhelpfully changes “respect for human rights,” to “realization of human rights.”  Moreover, operative paragraph 1 is a selective extraction from VDPA paragraph 10, omitting the key portion of the source sentence – lack of development may not be invoked to justify the abridgement of human rights.  While we acknowledge that preambular paragraph 6 was added to accommodate this concern, it was after repeated rejection of proposals from multiple countries to use consensus language, and the operative paragraph remains unchanged.  These and other distortions of consensus language reinforce the incorrect message that development is a prerequisite for states fulfilling their human rights obligations – a message that is clearly inconsistent with states’ commitments reflected in the VDPA.

As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told this Council in her plenary address, the Council must keep its focus on action aimed at promoting, protecting, and respecting human rights.  Unfortunately, this resolution, in attempting to reframe the relationship between development and human rights in a way that deviates from consensus texts adopted by UN Member States, falls short of that goal.

We call upon all delegations to oppose this resolution and to vote “no.”