Explanation of Vote on “Promoting and Protecting Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Within the Context of Addressing Inequalities in the Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic”
Statement as Delivered by Ambassador Michèle Taylor
Delegation of the United States of America
Human Rights Council – 49th Session
Mr. President, the United States engaged constructively on this resolution to support and achieve consensus. Unfortunately, our core concerns remain.
Among these are profound questions regarding the meaning of “inequalities,” a term that appears in the resolution 20 times. The Core Group failed to define “inequalities” throughout the seven informal negotiation sessions and numerous bilateral consultations. Equality is relevant in the human rights context insofar as it is addressed in human rights treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and it would not have been difficult to make that clear in the text. Unfortunately, we believe the absence of definition is an attempt to redefine our shared understanding of human rights law so that states are held to different standards for upholding their human rights obligations dependent on their levels of economic development. This notion is antithetical to the foundational principle of universal human rights.
At its core, this resolution is also an attempt to interfere with the independence and operational parameters of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. OHCHR is charged with promoting and protecting the effective enjoyment by all individuals of all civil, cultural, economic, political, and social rights, but this resolution seeks to divert OHCHR’s focus from the promotion of human rights to addressing economic differences between states. The series of requirements this resolution seeks to establish does not empower OHCHR to better address economic, social, and cultural rights within the Council. Instead, the resolution adds several layers of bureaucracy that undermine the Office’s autonomy and independence.
To be clear, the concept of equality is within the High Commissioner’s mandate as it is defined in international human rights law by human rights treaties. We are confident that OHCHR will understand that the inequalities addressed in this resolution are those addressed in relevant human rights treaties – not a broader notion of addressing economic differences between states that would go beyond the Office’s mandate.
As U.S. Secretary of State Blinken emphasized during High Level Week, the United States is committed to better addressing Economic, Social, and Cultural rights in the Human Rights Council. Our Administration is equally committed to helping the world recover from COVID-19, having contributed over half a billion vaccine donations – more than any other country. Unfortunately, this resolution’s primary focus is neither on ESC rights nor Covid recovery, and it is regrettable that this resolution fell short of advancing both issues in a transparent way.
For these reasons, the United States is calling a vote on this resolution. We will vote no and urge fellow members to join us in doing so.