Explanation of Position at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (Full Statement)

Jason R. Mack
Acting Representative to the Economic and Social Affairs Council
New York, New York
July 15, 2021


The United States thanks the Governments of Finland and Iraq as co-facilitators for their diligence and creativity in shepherding the negotiation of today’s Ministerial Declaration.

The United States strongly supports the 2030 Agenda and we are committed to its implementation. We value the declaration’s reaffirmation of the crucial cross-cutting values that drive progress in the achievement of the SDGs, including transparency, good governance and the rule of law, combatting inequality, respect for human rights, inclusive economic growth, environmental protection, gender equality, the empowerment of women and girls, preventing and responding to gender-based violence, poverty eradication, and the use of science and data to support policymakers. We are pleased to join consensus on the adoption of this declaration with the following clarifications.

First, we stress that the declaration should not be used to attempt to renegotiate the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda. Where language in this declaration does not accurately reflect agreed language from the 2030 Agenda, such as in paragraph 8, the United States will not view it as a basis for future negotiations. In addition, we understand the reference to “human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation” to refer to the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation derived from economic, social, and cultural rights contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

We regret that the declaration fails to recognize the critical importance of the One Health approach to pandemic preparedness. Understanding the interconnection between the health of people, animals, both domestic and wild, plants, and their shared environment is vital to achieving improved health outcomes and mitigating pandemic and epidemic risks posed by zoonotic spillover.

The United States is deeply committed to ending hunger and malnutrition and building more sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems. The United States is the largest single provider of international development and humanitarian assistance for food security and nutrition. With respect to paragraph 15 on SDG2, we stress that references to “the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food” and the “right to adequate food” are to be understood as consistent with the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, in the ICESCR.

Decent work is essential to pandemic recovery efforts and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. In our global recovery, we must promote and protect workers’ rights everywhere. We regret that during this International Year for the Elimination of Child Labor, the declaration does not specifically address elimination of the “worst forms of child labor.” We are pleased to note that the United States has developed a whole of government action pledge to support the elimination of child labor, forced labor, human trafficking, and modern slavery, which supports SDG target 8.7. We would also note that the United States implements its strong commitment to pursuing gender pay equity by observing the principle of “equal pay for equal work.”

The inclusion of paragraph 35 from the 2030 Agenda does not contribute to this declaration, and represents an attempt to politicize the important work that Member States undertake in the HLPF. We have consequently voted against its inclusion as paragraph 29 in the declaration, and we also dissociate from it. We stress, too, that the term “right to development” is not recognized in any of the core UN human rights conventions and does not have an agreed international meaning.

The United States supports a multilateral trading system that is open, rules-based predictable, transparent, and non-discriminatory, recognizing it as an important factor in facilitating sustainable development. However, characterizing a trading system under the World Trade Organization (WTO), which has its own membership and mandate, is outside of the scope of the UN. The UN must respect the independent mandates of other processes and institutions, including trade negotiations, and must not attempt to characterize or interfere with decisions and actions in those fora, including at the WTO. In addition, we would stress that, in paragraphs 15 and 35, global supply chains cannot “ensure” the free flow of goods, though governments can take appropriate actions to facilitate this flow. Regarding the language on “trade finance and trade facilitation measures,” we stress that decisions on trade finance transactions are made by private entities, not governments, and that trade facilitation measures apply to all goods, regardless of origin. We will not consider trade facilitation measures for one class of countries.

The United States firmly considers that strong protection and enforcement of intellectual property provides critical incentives needed to drive the innovation that will address the health, environmental and development challenges of today and tomorrow. The United States understands, with respect to this declaration in general and paragraphs 7, 20, and 22 in particular, that references to dissemination of technology and transfer of, or access to, technology are to voluntary transfers on mutually agreed terms, as reflected in paragraph 39, and that all references to access to information and/or knowledge are to information or knowledge that is made available with the authorization of the legitimate holder. The United States underscores the importance of regulatory and legal environments that support innovation. The language in paragraphs 7, 20, and 22 concerning technology transfer and knowledge and information sharing, does not, from the United States’ perspective, serve as a precedent for future negotiated documents.

The United States is committed to international cooperation to address pressing global challenges, including to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects. We have pledged to donate half-a-billion Pfizer vaccines to 92 low-and lower-middle income countries around the world and the African Union. These vaccines are in addition to the 80 million doses we have committed to supply by the end of this month, and the $2 billion we have already contributed to COVAX, the multilateral COVID-vaccination effort.

The United States also supports the rapid scaling up and expansion of vaccine production globally, including in developing countries, and recognizes the importance of access to affordable, safe, high-quality, and effective COVID-19 vaccines. However, the United States must disassociate from paragraph 7 because, as a general matter, we continue to oppose language in this forum that attempts to characterize trade commitments in other fora. We do not believe that UN resolutions or declarations are appropriate vehicles for such pronouncements, and we are concerned that inclusion of paragraph 7 may be an attempt to prejudice negotiations underway or anticipated in other, more appropriate fora. Additionally, paragraph 7 does not adequately capture all of the carefully negotiated and balanced language in the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health of 2001, and instead presents an unbalanced and incomplete picture of that language. Thus, the language in paragraph 7 does not, from the United States’ perspective, serve as a precedent for future negotiated documents.

Regarding paragraph 36, the United states supports the Aichi Targets and the development by Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) of a follow-up framework under the CBD, but emphasizes language in UN documents must not conflate CBD parties with UN Member States nor seek to direct the work of this or other conventions, which receive their instructions solely from their respective Parties via their governing bodies.

Regarding paragraph 46, the United States stresses that the language and structure of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) was negotiated in the appropriate fora, including the G20, G7, and Paris Club, to allow the program to operate in a rapid and efficient manner. The role of the private sector was carefully considered, and parties agreed that participation by the private sector in DSSI should be encouraged but ultimately voluntary. It is not appropriate for the UN to attempt to reinterpret the agreement reached in the appropriate fora. Similarly, we cannot accept references suggesting that debt treatment is in any way a prerequisite for the achievement of the SDGs or Paris Agreement. Such suggestions are an attempt to condition commitments made under those frameworks on independent processes. The United States therefore dissociates from that language and will not consider it agreed in future negotiations.

The United States recognizes the vital importance of sustainable infrastructure in achieving the SDGs, as reflected in President Biden’s commitment to the G7 Build Back Better World partnership. However, paragraph 47 does not account for existing work being done on this topic in appropriate fora, nor does it recognize the importance of ensuring that infrastructure is developed using international standards and best practices on the environment, debt, and labor. Sustainable infrastructure is not simply a question of funding or capital; it requires strengthening the institutions that help support sustainable funding streams and capacity building to help ensure that countries are able to secure and benefit from investments.

Finally, the United States reaffirms its position on the 2030 Agenda as detailed in its Explanation of Position delivered on September 1, 2015.

The United States appreciates the efforts by delegations to negotiate an impactful statement that reflects our shared commitment to sustainable development, as well as the innovative and thoughtful contributions presented in this year’s HLPF. We look forward to continuing to work with Member States and stakeholders to meet the ambition and promise of the 2030 Agenda.