Counselor for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
December 14, 2020
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The first portion of my statement pertains to the Global Health and Foreign Policy resolution A/75/L.41. I will then give a second statement related to the resolution on health ageing.
Mr. Chairperson, all of our countries are struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting death and economic destruction across the globe. However, we cannot accept a resolution that ignores fundamental questions about the origin and spread of COVID-19. Further, it dilutes the purported focus on global health by including unrelated issues that do not enjoy consensus, or are not properly addressed by this body. In a year when global health security matters so much to so many, we are also deeply concerned by the lack of inclusivity in the drafting and consultation of this resolution. During the recent UNGA Special Session on COVID-19, numerous Member States called for greater transparency and progress in the origins investigation, yet this resolution fails to include any language on this critical demand. It is simply unconscionable that we are not focusing global attention on an issue at the core of both global public health and preventing the next pandemic: the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it spread beyond Wuhan and then outside of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
This month, we passed the one-year mark since the reported emergence of COVID-19, and it is unacceptable that we still have very little information on how it began and spread so quickly among the population in Wuhan, China. The overwhelming consensus of Member States in adopting World Health Assembly Resolution 73.1 was to call for scientific and collaborative field missions to investigate the origins of the virus. International experts have yet to be dispatched to the PRC to conduct a fair, complete, and transparent investigation. The Terms of Reference for the investigation were not developed with transparency in full consultation with Member States. The World Health Organization has still not confirmed the date for the trip of international experts. The international team needs immediate, direct, and unfettered access to areas of the outbreak to answer the fundamental question – how could this pandemic have been prevented? This answer is critical to our success in reducing the risk of future pandemics.
We are not inventing allegations unsupported by science or fact. Today, we are simply asking the international community to act responsibly, and the PRC to share the vital information about the origins and spread of the COVID-19 virus that has not yet been provided to Member States.
Simply put, this resolution does not make even the minimum effort to address the questions for which our citizens deserve and demand answers to at this critical moment. We need to get to the bottom of how COVID-19 was able to spread so quickly and with such devastating impact if we are to strengthen global health around the world – as this resolution claims to do.
As in the past, this resolution also continues to be fundamentally flawed by the inclusion of issues entirely unrelated to public health. The United States has raised our objections to these issues in other venues, and our concerns are well known. Problematic issues included in this resolution include the following:
The United States does not believe governments are responsible for the fair distribution of income; state efforts to enforce a “fair distribution” result in lower productivity, slow or no growth, and diminished prosperity.
The Global Plan of Action on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (GSPOA) was carefully negotiated at the World Health Organization (WHO). We urge Member States and the WHO to focus on areas of consensus in the GSPOA, and to prioritize policies that will promote access to medicines while also strengthening the global innovation system. Also, Member States and the WHO should intensify its trilateral cooperation with WIPO and WTO to foster a better understanding of the linkage between public health and intellectual property policies.
“Sexual and reproductive health, and reproductive rights” is a term that has accumulated connotations that inaccurately promote abortion or a right to abortion. As affirmed in the Geneva Consensus Declaration by countries representing every region of the globe, each nation has the sovereign right to implement related programs and activities consistent with their laws and policies, without external pressure or interference. We fully support the provision of quality health care to women and girls around the world without promoting abortion.
The UN must respect the independent mandates of other processes and institutions, including trade negotiations, and must not involve itself in decisions and actions in other forums, including at the WTO.
The United States welcomes the human rights references in this text, but it is regrettable that the final text does not contain even one mention of human rights defenders. Additionally, the United States works to counter racial discrimination, xenophobia, and all other forms of intolerance. Rather than seeking restrictions on expression as a means of addressing intolerance or hate speech, the United States advocates for robust protections for speech, as well as the enforcement of appropriate legal regimes that deal with discriminatory acts and hate crimes.
Lastly, with regard to this resolution’s references to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sendai Framework, we addressed our concerns in our General Statement delivered on November 18, 2020.
In spite of the litany of issues we raised, we thank the core group for their work on this year’s resolution. We continue to be concerned, however, by the lack of inclusivity inherent in the drafting and consultation of this resolution. This year we note that the procedure was particularly rushed and seemed to favor a specific adoption date rather than being a properly negotiated text. We would strongly encourage reflection by core group members, and particularly next year’s chair, on more appropriate timelines that allow for truly meaningful consultation with the wider UN membership, both in New York and Geneva. For example, we recommend taking advantage of this being a General Assembly resolution to begin negotiations in early December, so as to avoid overlap with the adoptions of 2C and 3C, and to provide adequate time for meaningful negotiation, rather than to be tied to a fixed date of adoption. In the context of COVID-19, the stakes are too high for this resolution not to reflect important aspects of the international response or the voices of all UN member states. This, of course, will continue to be the case in 2021, and we look forward to improved working methods next year and in the years to come.
While I speak on behalf of the United States, I know we are not alone in our concerns about the need to urgently address fundamental questions about the origin and spread of COVID-19. We strongly urge all parties involved to commit to greater transparency and progress in the origins investigation.
Now in relation to the resolution on the UN Decade for Healthy Ageing, the United States is pleased to join consensus on this resolution. We would like to thank Chile and Japan for their constructive process throughout the negotiations.
We would like to note that the United States submitted a notice of withdrawal from the World Health Organization, which will become effective on July 6, 2021. As such, we dissociate from references to the World Health Organization in OP4.
With regard to this resolution’s references to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we addressed our concerns in our General Statement delivered on November 18, 2020.