Explanation of Position on a Third Committee Resolution on the Right to Food

Eric Merron
U.S. Adviser for the Third Committee
New York, New York
November 7, 2023


Thank you, Chairperson.

The need for action in combatting food insecurity has never been greater. The world continues to face extreme levels of food insecurity and humanitarian crisis. 811 million people are going hungry around the world including over 150 million children according to the World Food Programme. Conflict, impacts of climate change, and other factors forcibly displaced more than 110 million this year, with many unable to access clean water, emergency medicine, shelter, and food without assistance.

Food insecurity is a global challenge that requires a global solution, and the United States will continue to lead in the response to this crisis as we come together to support those who need it most. Food security is essential for broader peace and prosperity. Since January 2021, we’ve committed over $17.5 billion in lifesaving humanitarian and development assistance to build resilient food systems, increase sustainable agricultural production, and save lives through emergency interventions, through bilateral programs of the U.S. flagship initiative on global hunger, Feed the Future. Additionally, at the G7 Summit earlier this year, the United States joined nations around the world in launching an Action Statement for Resilient Global Food Security, reaffirming that access to affordable, safe, and nutritious food is a basic human need. The United States remains the largest contributor to the World Food Program, providing over $7.2 billion – or over 50 percent of its budget – in 2022 alone. In February of this year, the United States, the African Union, and the Food and Agriculture Organization came together and launched The Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACS), which is part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. With an initial focus on the African continent, VACS seeks to boost agricultural productivity and nutrition by developing diverse, climate-resilient crop varieties and building healthy soils.

This resolution rightfully acknowledges the hardships millions of people are facing, and importantly calls on States to support the emergency humanitarian appeals of the UN. Although we will not block consensus, we are, however, disappointed that this resolution contains problematic, inappropriate language that does not belong in a resolution focused on human rights. Further, while we appreciate the informals hosted by Cuba and the Non-Aligned Movement, we are disappointed the facilitators took very few edits offered by a variety of delegations. As a result, we are dissociating from preambular paragraph 13 and operative paragraph 24.

With regard to preambular paragraph 13, sanctions are an important, appropriate, and effective tool for responding to threats to peace and security. They can be used to promote accountability for those who abuse human rights, undermine democracy, or engage in corrupt activities. In cases where the United States has applied sanctions, we have done so with specific objectives in mind, including the promotion of democratic systems, rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, or to respond to security threats. They are a legitimate way to achieve foreign policy, national security, and other national and international objectives, and the United States is not alone in that view or in that practice.

The United States continues decades of support for strong and growing trade relationships around the globe. We welcome efforts to bolster those relationships, increase economic cooperation, and advance prosperity for all people, within the appropriate institutions. We underscore our position that trade language negotiated or adopted by the General Assembly has no relevance for U.S. trade policy, for our trade obligations or commitments, or for the agenda at the World Trade Organization, including discussions or negotiations in that forum. While the UN and WTO share common interests, they have different roles, rules, and memberships. Similarly, this includes calls to adopt approaches that may undermine incentives for innovation, such as technology transfer that is not both voluntary and on mutually agreed terms.

The United States is concerned with the concept of “food sovereignty” mentioned in operative paragraph 24 as it could support unjustified restrictive import or export measures that increase market volatility and threaten food security, sustainability, and income growth. We cannot ignore varying local contexts and the vital role global trade plays in promoting food security. Improved access to local, regional, and global markets helps ensure food flows to people who need it most and mitigates price volatility. Food security depends on appropriate domestic action by governments, consistent with international commitments.

Regarding operative paragraph 41, we stress that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have their own governance structures, mandates, and decision-making processes that are independent of the UN and are essential to helping ensure that they remain fiscally solvent and able to support the objectives of their shareholders. These institutions’ governing bodies include broad country memberships at all income levels, including borrowing and nonborrowing members. As such, it is inappropriate – and potentially undermines the intended function of these entities – for the UN to seek to directly influence or to make specific recommendations targeting these institutions.

We are also concerned with the new language on “international financial architecture” in operative paragraph 51 as it has no internationally agreed meaning. Access to adequate and appropriate financing, including grants, concessional and non-concessional trade credit and other lending sourced from domestic, international, private, public, and non-profit sources, should not be conflated with the international financial architecture, however defined. The US strongly supports mobilizing financing to transform food systems and has been highly responsive to calls for support and reform, including through its championing of MDB

evolution, which is moving the institutions to be more responsive to borrowers and to global challenges.

The United States recognizes the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including food, as reflected in the UDHR and ICESCR. We respect the importance of promoting access to food and understand that efforts to do so can involve distinctive approaches. We do not concur with any reading of this resolution or related documents that would suggest that States have particular extraterritorial obligations arising from a right to food, and we do not accept all of the analyses and conclusions in the Committee’s general comments mentioned in this resolution. The U.S. position with respect to the ICESCR and other issues are addressed further in the United States’ general statement, to be posted online at the conclusion of this session.

Thank you.