EOV on the Right to Food – HRC37 Resolution L.21

A/HRC/37/L.21
Explanation of Vote by the United States of America

Human Rights Council, 37th Session
Geneva, March 23, 2018

– As prepared –

Thank you, Mr. President.

This Council is meeting at a time when the international community is confronting what could be the modern era’s most serious food security emergency.  Over 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, the Lake Chad Basin, and Yemen are facing famine and starvation.  The United States, working with concerned partners and relevant international institutions, is fully engaged on addressing these conflict-related crises.

This Council, and all members of the international community, should be outraged that so many people are facing food insecurity because of manmade crises caused by instability and armed conflict.  The resolution before us today rightfully acknowledges the calamity facing millions of people and importantly calls on States to support the United Nations’ emergency humanitarian appeal.  However, the resolution also contains many unbalanced, inaccurate, and unwise provisions that the United States cannot support.  In other words, this resolution does not articulate meaningful solutions for preventing hunger and malnutrition or avoiding its devastating consequences.

As such and for the following additional reasons, we call a vote and will vote “no” on this resolution.

First, despite efforts by the sponsor to streamline this text, which are duly appreciated, this resolution continues to inappropriately discuss trade-related issues, which fall outside the subject-matter and the expertise of this Council.  As we have stated on many occasions, it is not acceptable to the United States for the UN to speak to ongoing or future work of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to reinterpret WTO agreements and decisions, to seek to shape WTO negotiations and its agenda.  The WTO is an independent organization with a different membership and mandate.  The language in operative paragraph 24 in no way supersedes or otherwise undermines the WTO Nairobi Ministerial Declaration, which all WTO Members adopted by consensus.  At the WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in 2015, WTO Members could not agree to reaffirm the Doha Development Agenda (DDA).  As a result, WTO Members are no longer negotiating under the DDA framework. Paragraph 24 also inaccurately links trade negotiations at the WTO to the right to food.  Similarly, the United States rejects operative paragraph 25, which inaccurately suggests there is a tension between international trade agreements and a “right to food.”

Second, the United States does not support the resolution’s references to technology transfer that are not clearly indicated to be on mutually agreed terms and voluntary.

Finally, while we do not treat the “right to food” as an enforceable obligation, the United States supports the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including food, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Domestically, the United States pursues policies that promote access to food, and it is our objective to achieve a world where everyone has adequate access to food.  However this resolution mischaracterizes certain human rights and aspects of international human rights law, including by referring to rights that are not recognized and suggesting that there is a hierarchy of rights.  Furthermore, we reiterate that States are responsible for implementing their human rights obligations regardless of external factors, including, for example, the availability of technical and other assistance.  We also reject the suggestion in this resolution that States have particular extraterritorial obligations arising from any concept of a “right to food.”