Explanation of Position on the Adoption of a General Assembly Humanitarian Agenda Item

Courtney Nemroff
Deputy U.S. Representative to ECOSOC
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
December 14, 2018


The United States is pleased to join consensus on these resolutions and reaffirms the vital function of the United Nations in responding to humanitarian need around the globe. The United States has long been a world leader in providing humanitarian assistance to people in need, including through the United Nations, and we remain committed to supporting those in need.

In light of the scale of need and of the UN’s role in the delivery of humanitarian assistance globally, this resolution should contribute to improving the international humanitarian system. In this regard, we welcome the progress achieved together throughout recent negotiations.

Although we welcome the adoption of the Safety and Security resolution, we would like to take this opportunity to make an important point of clarification.

This resolution includes references to the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute that the United States cannot support, as such language does not distinguish sufficiently between Parties and Non-Parties to the Rome Statute, or is otherwise contrary to the U.S. position on the ICC, as announced by the White House on September 10, 2018.

In particular, the United States reiterates our continuing and longstanding principled objection to any assertion of ICC jurisdiction over nationals of States that are not parties to the Rome Statute, including the United States and Israel, absent a referral from the UN Security Council or the consent of such a State. We also wish to reiterate our serious and fundamental concerns with the ICC Prosecutor’s proposed investigation of U.S. personnel in the context of the conflict in Afghanistan.

The United States remains a leader in the fight to end impunity, and continues to support justice and accountability for international crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. We respect the decision of those nations that have chosen to join the ICC, and, in turn, we expect that our decision not to join, and not to place our citizens under the ICC’s jurisdiction, will also be respected.

In addition to this statement, the United States would like to issue the following Explanation of Position on the resolutions on the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance to the United Nations, and on cooperation on humanitarian assistance in natural disasters, for which we are also pleased to join consensus.

While we welcome the adoption of these resolutions, we would like to make important points of clarification on some of their elements. We underscore that General Assembly resolutions, and many of the outcome documents referenced therein, are non-binding documents that do not create rights or obligations under international law, nor do they bind states to any financial commitments.

In reference to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development contained in this resolution please reference to the US statement in the General Assembly under agenda item 12 on December 3rd of this year.

The United States notes that the Administration announced its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement as soon as it is eligible to do so, consistent with the terms of the Agreement, unless suitable terms for re-engagement are identified. Therefore, the Paris Agreement and climate change language in these resolutions is without prejudice to U.S. positions. We affirm our support for promoting economic growth and improving energy security while protecting the environment.

We also reiterate our views on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction set forth in the United States’ Explanation of Position delivered on March 18, 2015.

The United States cannot support language that undermines incentives for innovation, such as calls for technology transfer that are not voluntary and on mutually agreed terms, and it underlines that such language will have no standing in future negotiations.

With respect to the New Urban Agenda, the United States reiterates our views set forth in the United States Explanation of Position delivered on October 20, 2016. Furthermore, the United States believes that each Member State has the sovereign right to determine how it conducts trade with other countries and that this includes restricting trade in certain circumstances. We are within our rights to utilize our trade and commercial policy as tools to achieve noble objectives.

Within the humanitarian omnibus, the United States is strongly supportive of the message of Operative Paragraph 66’s message regarding the need for accountability. We read the paragraph’s language regarding the need to bring those responsible for violations of international law to justice to refer only to those actions that constitute criminal violations under applicable international law. We emphasize that the reference to ‘the applicable rules of international humanitarian law relating to the non-punishment of any person for carrying out medical activities compatible with medical ethics’ in preambular paragraph 30 and operative paragraph 64 is not meant to pre-judge when and how such rules are applicable to any particular situation.

The United States also supports international cooperation on immigration issues, but it is the primary responsibility of sovereign States to ensure that immigration is managed consistent with their law and policy. The United States cannot support processes or documents that may result in the infringement of our sovereign rights. The New York Declaration of September 19, 2016, which was negotiated by a prior U.S. Administration, commits UN Member States to “strengthening global governance” for international migration. This document contains policy goals that are inconsistent with U.S. law and policy and the United States cannot support reaffirming this declaration and therefore dissociates from preambular paragraph 25 in the humanitarian omnibus resolution.

Lastly, the United States believes that women should have equal access to health care, including in humanitarian emergencies. We remain committed to the principles laid out in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and their reports, as agreed upon by the UN General Assembly. As has been made clear over many years, there was international consensus that these documents do not create new international rights, including any “right” to abortion. The United States fully supports the principle of voluntary choice regarding maternal and child health and family planning. We do not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, nor do we support abortion in our global health assistance.

We regret that the U.S. amendments to the humanitarian omnibus and the natural disasters resolution did not pass, and accordingly wording that is problematic for us remains in the resolution. The United States therefore dissociates from operative paragraphs 58 and 59 in the humanitarian omnibus, and operative paragraph 59 in the natural disasters resolution because of our concern that the terms “sexual and reproductive health-care services” and “sexual and reproductive health” have accumulated connotations that suggest the promotion of abortion, or a right to abortion, that are unacceptable to our Administration.

Let me reiterate that the United States remains a stalwart defender of, and donor to, maternal and children’s health, life, and well-being, and we will never waiver on that support. We continue to support emergency maternal, newborn, and child healthcare for survivors of violence, including sexual violence, the prevention of the transmission of HIV/AIDS, and the coordination of these actions in humanitarian emergencies.

We request that this statement be made part of the official record of the meeting. Thank you.