Explanation of Vote by the United States of America
as delivered by Jason Mack
Human Rights Council, 37th Session
Geneva, March 23, 2018
Thank you, Mr. President.
It is clear that China is attempting through this resolution to weaken the UN human rights system and the norms underpinning it. The “feel good” language about “mutually beneficial cooperation” is intended to benefit autocratic states at the expense of people whose human rights and fundamental freedoms we are all obligated, as States, to respect. For these reasons, the United States is calling a vote and will vote against this resolution. We encourage other countries not to support this resolution.
The United States is committed to defending human rights frameworks at the United Nations; we will not participate in attempts to weaken states’ obligations and commitments to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms or to subordinate them to other aims, such as those related to development or trade.
The Human Rights Council was founded in light of the purposes and principles contained in the Charter of the United Nations, including “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.” With this resolution, however, the Chinese sponsors have turned the word “respect” on its head and demanded that governments be respected. A call for governments that abuse their own citizens’ rights to be respected has no place in a forum dedicated to respecting and protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the individual.
Therefore, we are disappointed that the revised draft still betrays China’s effort to insulate itself from criticism of its human rights record by demanding “respect.” No nation’s human rights record is perfect. Criticism is necessary to promote and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all. The only way for any government to achieve respect is for that government to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Furthermore, Chinese spokespersons in Beijing have used the terms “win-win” and “mutually beneficial” interchangeably, and they have been clear about their intent to glorify their head of State by inserting his thoughts into the international human rights lexicon. None of us should support incorporating language targeting a domestic political audience into multilateral settings. This is especially true as the term has no clear meaning internationally and is vulnerable to subsequent interpretation and reinvention by the one country that uses the phrase.
A true example of cooperation in promoting and protecting human rights would be for China to release citizens it has wrongly detained, or to protect the right of religious minorities to freely practice their religion.