Explanation of Position on Agenda Item 68(a), A/C.3/72/L.12/Rev. 1 on World Summit for Social Development

Marguerite Walter
New York City
November 21, 2017


Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The United States is disappointed that issues remain in this resolution which are not clearly linked to social development or the work of this Committee. The Secretary-General has called for UN reform to increase efficiency and effectiveness, and the consideration of issues not within the topic of this resolution is a misuse of resources. We must express our concerns over portions of this resolution that attribute supposed negative impacts on economic and social development to vague and sweeping references to some trade practices and trade barriers; and inappropriately call upon international financial institutions and other non-UN organizations to take actions that are beyond the scope of what this resolution should properly address. For these reasons, we are calling for a vote and voting no on this resolution, and encourage other Member States to vote no as well.

We underscore that this resolution and the other ones adopted by this Committee do not change or necessarily reflect the United States’ or other States’ obligations under treaty or customary international law. A few paragraph-specific observations and explanations follow.

Regarding reference to foreign occupation in preambular paragraph 15, we reaffirm our abiding commitment to a comprehensive and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We remain committed to supporting the Palestinian people in practical and effective ways, including through sustainable development. We will continue to work with the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and international partners to improve the lives of ordinary people as they pursue a more sustainable future.

In reference to operative paragraph 37, the United States believes the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provide a valuable, universal framework for working through a wide range of issues and challenges. In that regard, we understand the responsibility of business enterprises raised in this resolution to be consistent with the UN Guiding Principles. We further emphasize that the responsibility is not artificially limited to “transnational” or “private” corporations, but applies to all kinds and forms of business enterprises regardless of their size, sector, location, ownership and structure.

Regarding economic and trade issues, it is inappropriate for the UN General Assembly to call on international financial institutions to provide debt relief, as this resolution does in operative paragraph 45. Further, the demands in operative paragraph 57 that the international community “shall” increase market access or provide debt relief are wholly unacceptable in a resolution such as this one. We note that General Assembly resolutions should refrain from using language such as “shall” in reference to action by member states, in that such terminology is only appropriate with respect to binding texts. In the view of the United States, this language has no standing in this or in any other forum, including in future negotiated documents.

Further, the United States understands that all references to transfer of, or access to, technology in this resolution — or any others this Committee adopts at this session — refer to voluntary technology transfer on mutually agreed terms and conditions, 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.

We note that the term “equitable” is used in multiple contexts in this resolution. While the United States fully endorsed the importance of universal access to open and transparent markets for example, we must collectively avoid any unintended interpretation of the term “equitable” that implies a subjective assessment of fairness that, among other things, may lead to discriminatory practices.

We appreciate that the sponsors of the resolution removed language in the zero draft which offered an additional example of China’s attempts to impose its national view of multilateralism and world geopolitics on the international system. The United States cannot agree to this language, but looks forward to working with China and others in the months and years ahead to sustain and strengthen the international norms on which the global system is based.

With regard to this resolution’s references to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, we addressed our concerns in a General Statement delivered previously, on November 20.

Thank you, Chair.