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General Statement on ITEM 3
March 23, 2018

General Statement by the United States of America

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

As prepared

Mr. President,

The United States wishes to clarify its position on a few issues present in several of the Item 3 resolutions, including but not limited to the Right to Work and Good Governance.  As we have noted in the past, the United States understands that the Human Rights Council’s resolutions do not change the current state of conventional or customary international law or impose legal obligations on States.  To adhere to time limits, a full general statement on Item 3 issues will be uploaded to the extranet and on the US Mission’s website.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not 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 or noting a report with appreciation should not be understood as acceptance of or support for all assertions, conclusions, or recommendations contained therein, nor should welcoming the work of a Special Rapporteur be understood as support for all of the Rapporteur’s projects or publications.

We reiterate our views regarding references to the International Criminal Court enumerated in our Item 4 General Statement.

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).  The United States is not Party to this Covenant and the rights contained therein are not justiciable as such in U.S. Courts.  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, or related rights, including those derived from other instruments.

The concerns of the United States about the existence of a “right to development” and economic, social, and cultural rights 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 non-binding global framework for sustainable development that can help countries work toward global peace and prosperity.  However, each country has its own development priorities and must work towards implementation in accordance with its own national policies.

In terms of the relationship between human rights and development, we recall that, as the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action states, “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.

With respect to references to climate change and the Paris Agreement, we note that the United States announced that it intends to withdraw as soon as it is eligible to do so, consistent with the terms of the Agreement, unless we can identify suitable terms for re-engagement.  Therefore, language on the Paris Agreement and climate change in these resolutions is adopted without prejudice to U.S. positions.

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 would like to emphasize its continuing concerns 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.  It is essential that we implement fiscal discipline.

This general statement applies in particular to the following resolutions:  Adequate Housing as a Component of the Right to an Adequate Standard of Living and the Right to Non-discrimination in this Context; Contribution to the Implementation of the Joint Commitment to Effectively Addressing and Countering the World Drug Problem with Regard to Human Rights; Equality and non-discrimination of persons with disabilities and the right of persons with disabilities to access to justice; Human Rights and the Environment; Mandate of the Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of Human Rights of Persons with Albinism; Mandate of the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights; The Need for an Integrated Approach to the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for the Full Realization of Human Rights, Focusing on all the Means of Implementation; Prevention of Genocide; Promoting Human Rights and SDGs through Transparent, Accountable and Efficient Public Services Delivery; The Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; Question of the Realization of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; The Right to Privacy in the Digital Age; The Right to Work; Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities; Rights of the Child; and Role of Good Governance.

Thank you.