Explanation of Vote after the Adoption of the UNGA72 Second Committee Resolution on Culture and Sustainable Development

Marji Christian
International Relations Officer
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 30, 2017


Mr. Chair, the United States remains committed to the preservation of cultural heritage worldwide, and we recognize that culture can contribute to inclusive and sustainable economic and social development. However, the United States has serious concerns about this resolution.

For instance, the United States cannot accept a reference to repatriation of cultural property without acknowledging the rights of indigenous peoples to access to and repatriation of their ceremonial objects and human remains. We would expect this principle to be shared by many states which, like the United States, support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Also, the United States cannot support conflating the protection of cultural property against trafficking with the application of intellectual property rights to the creation of new cultural products for the market.

The United States is further unable to join consensus on Paragraph 11(e). The United States is not a party to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and voted against it because of its flawed approach to issues related to this paragraph.

In addition, we note that there is no international consensus as to what cultural misappropriation means. For that reason, the United States is unable to join consensus on paragraphs 11(h) and (i).

Regarding Paragraph 13, the United States is unable to join consensus on language that calls on independent international organizations and other countries to support certain countries’ efforts to consolidate their cultural industries. If domestic authorities pursue such efforts, it should be done in a manner that is consistent with relevant international rules and obligations. Generally speaking, the United States supports other countries’ efforts to improve the environment for competition, investment, and free, fair, and reciprocal trade.

The United States also cannot support language in the resolution that seeks to promote technology transfer that is not voluntary and on mutually agreed terms. For the United States, any such language will have no standing in future negotiations. The United States continues to oppose language that we believe undermines intellectual property rights.

With regard to this resolution’s references to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Paris Agreement, and climate change, we addressed our concerns in a General Statement delivered on November 17.

Thank you.