Explanation of Vote on a High-Level Political Forum Ministerial Declaration

Ambassador Kelley Currie
U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
July 18, 2018


Good afternoon. I want to thank the ECOSOC President Ambassador Chatardova for organizing the High Level Political Forum and the co-facilitators of the HLPF Ministerial Declaration, Ambassador Gillian Bird and Ambassador Masud Bin Momen, for their efforts throughout the negotiations.

We regret that we were unable to join consensus on this document, as the United States remains firmly committed to its role as a leader in promoting sustainable development.

Throughout this process, we have made our issues with this text well known. We offered numerous constructive amendments in the spirit of compromise. Therefore, it was with regret that the United States had to call a vote and vote no on the Ministerial Declaration due to inappropriate language on foreign occupation and trade, as well as the elevation of an inappropriate development model and the domestic policy rhetoric of a single Member State.

The HLPF was created for the international community to provide updates on how countries are implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Regrettably, we have seen countries deliberately and repeatedly insert non-consensual language into this Ministerial Declaration, largely for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with sustainable development or poverty alleviation. Including this language detracts from the opportunity to collectively report on and advance progress toward sustainable development. We urge those Member States and groupings that insist on the inclusion of this divisive and derivative language to reflect upon the damage they are doing to the efforts to implement the SDGs. This continued, relentless politicization of this declaration should force all Member States to question whether the resources we have all devoted, in staff time, travel, and negotiations, on this Ministerial Declaration would not have been better spent actually promoting SDG implementation on the ground.

Let me be clear: the United States’ commitment to sustainable international development is enshrined in President Trump’s National Security Strategy. Our commitment to financing development is demonstrated in everything we do, as the largest donor to and a significant private sector investor in developing countries. We remain the largest provider of Official Development Assistance, and we are focusing more of our ODA on catalyzing both domestic revenues and private investment in partner countries most in need as they progress on their journey toward self-reliance and sustainability. The United States supports the spirit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a framework for development and will continue to be a global leader in sustainable development through our policies, partnerships, innovations, and calls to action.

The United States joined Israel in voting against Paragraph 12, which contains an unacceptable reference to “foreign occupation.” Given our strong support for conflict prevention, human rights promotion and good governance, we are very disappointed that we were unable to reach a common position on this paragraph with our partners and that, yet once again, certain Member States have sought to politicize development issues at the UN by including “foreign occupation” language in this declaration.

The concerns of the United States about the existence of a “right to development,” also referenced in paragraph 12, are long-standing and well known. While we recognize that development facilitates the enjoyment of human rights, the “right to development” does not have an agreed international meaning. Furthermore, we continue to face serious challenges to make any such “right” consistent with fundamental human rights, which the international community recognizes as universal rights held and enjoyed by individuals and which every individual may demand respect for from his or her own government‎.

The United States believes that all development, including sustainable development, needs to be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with human rights. The United States underscores that there are no circumstances under which development goals permit countries to deviate from their human rights obligations and commitments. Therefore, we continually encourage all states to implement their human rights obligations and commitments, regardless of level of development.

With respect to references to the Paris Agreement, we note that the United States announced that it intends to withdraw as soon as it is eligible to do so, consistent with the terms of the Agreement, unless suitable terms for re-engagement are identified. We recognize that climate change is a complex global challenge, and affirm our support for promoting economic growth and improving energy security while protecting the environment.

Regarding language in paragraphs 24 and 28, to the extent that it encourages financial assistance to the Technology Bank and characterizes technology transfer that is not clearly indicated to be both voluntary and on mutually agreed terms, the United States reiterates its long standing objections. 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.

In paragraph 28, the United States reiterates its objections to the reference to “mutually beneficial cooperation.” The terms “win-win cooperation” and “mutually beneficial cooperation” have been promoted interchangeably by a single Member State to insert its domestic policy agenda in UN contexts. As a result, these terms have come to be synonymous with a model of development that is dangerous to the future of sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Goals. None of us should support incorporating language targeting a domestic political audience into multilateral documents. This is especially true, as the term “mutually beneficial cooperation” increasingly appears to refer to a model of development cooperation that comes at the cost of well-established development best practices.

The United States also objects to the trade language in paragraph 28. The United States does not view the UN as the appropriate body to opine on the WTO and does not support references to WTO issues in UN documents. Further, we do not find it acceptable for UN Member States to attempt to prescribe the appropriate characteristics of an international organization that is independent of the UN system, or to comment on the membership of that international organization.

With regard to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United States applauds the call for shared responsibility, including the emphasis on national responsibility, in the 2030 Agenda and emphasize that all countries have a role to play in achieving its vision. However, the 2030 Agenda recognizes that each country must work toward implementation in accordance with its own national policies and priorities.

We also underscore that paragraph 18 of the 2030 Agenda calls for countries to implement the Agenda in a manner that is consistent with the rights and obligations of States under international law. We highlight our mutual recognition in paragraph 58 that 2030 Agenda implementation must respect and be without prejudice to the independent mandates of other processes and institutions, including negotiations, and does not prejudge or serve as precedent for decisions and actions underway in other forums. For example, this Agenda does not represent a commitment to provide new market access for goods or services. This Agenda also does not interpret or alter any WTO agreement or decision, including the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property.

With regard to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, AAAA, we note that much of the trade-related language in the AAAA outcome document has been overtaken by events since July 2015; therefore, it is immaterial, and our reaffirmation of the outcome document has no standing for ongoing work and negotiations that involve trade.

Finally, the United States reiterates our views on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction set forth in the U.S. Explanation of Position delivered in Sendai in March 2015. We have been a strong supporter of disaster risk-reduction initiatives designed to reduce loss of life and the social and economic impacts of disasters. This assistance helps recipients build a culture of preparedness, promote greater resilience, and achieve self-reliance.

Finally, we take this opportunity to underscore that this non-binging document does not create or affect rights or obligations under international law, nor does it give rise to financial commitments.

Thank you.