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General Statement by the United States – HRC36 Item 3
September 29, 2017

U.S. Statement as delivered by Jason Mack

Human Rights Council 36th Session
Geneva, September 29, 2017

Thank you Mr. President,

The United States understands that the Human Rights Council’s resolutions do not change the current state of conventional or customary international law.  Nor does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights itself create legal obligations.  We do not read these resolutions to imply that states must join or implement obligations under international instruments to which they are not a party.  We understand abbreviated references to certain human rights to be shorthand for the accurate terms used in the applicable international treaty, and we maintain our longstanding positions on those rights.  The United States understands that any reaffirmation of prior documents applies only to those states that affirmed them initially, and, in the case of international treaties or conventions, to those States who are party. “Welcoming” a report should not be understood as acceptance of all assertions, conclusions, or recommendations contained therein.

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 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).  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 believe that these resolutions should not try to define the content of those rights.

The concerns of the United States about the existence of a “right to development” are long-standing and well known. While we recognize that development facilitates the enjoyment of human rights, the “right to development” does not have an agreed international meaning. Furthermore, work is needed to make any such “right” 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.

The United States recognizes the 2030 Agenda as a global framework for sustainable development that can help countries work toward global peace and prosperity.  We applaud the call for shared responsibility in the Agenda and emphasize that all countries have a role to play in achieving its vision.  We also strongly support national responsibility stressed in the Agenda.  However, each country has its own development priorities, and we emphasize that countries must work towards implementation in accordance with their own national circumstances and priorities.

In terms of the relationship between human rights and development, we recall the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which recognizes that “development facilitates the enjoyment of all human rights” but that “the lack of development may not be invoked to justify the abridgement of internationally recognized human rights.”  We recognize that development, including aspects of the 2030 Agenda, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms can be mutually reinforcing, but emphasize that states must respect all of their human rights obligations, both in the context of development and beyond.

The United States is firmly committed to providing equal access to education.  As educational matters in the United States are primarily determined at the state and local levels, we understand that when resolutions call on States to strengthen various aspects of education, including with respect to curriculum, this is done in terms consistent with our respective federal, state, and local authorities.

The United States is concerned about the growth in funding related to the Human Rights Council.  UN regular budget support to OHCHR has more than tripled since the mid-2000s.  In addition, significant amounts of regular budget funding support the human rights pillar via UN conference services.  The United States works to contain costs where possible but is often the lone voice advocating fiscal discipline.

This general statement applies in particular to the following resolutions: The full enjoyment of human rights by all women and girls and the systematic mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals, Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples, Human Rights in the Administration of Justice, including juvenile justice, Promoting international cooperation to support national human rights follow up systems and processes including, as appropriate, national mechanisms for reporting and follow-up: their potential contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes; Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Mental Health and Human Rights, Unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents and human rights, World Programme for Human Rights Education.

Thank you.