Explanation of Vote on a Second Committee Resolution on Agricultural Development and Food Security

Jason Lawrence
Adviser for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
December 3, 2018


Mr. Chair, the United States remains committed to promoting agricultural development, food security and nutrition worldwide. Indeed, the United States is the single largest bilateral donor to programs to reduce hunger and to promote global food security. However, we believe this resolution goes beyond addressing needs related to agricultural development, food security, and nutrition, and instead expands well beyond the appropriate role of the United Nations General Assembly.

The United States supports the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including food, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Domestically, the United States pursues policies that promote access to food, and it is our objective to achieve a world where everyone has adequate access to food, but we do not treat the right to food as an enforceable obligation. The United States does not recognize any change in the current state of conventional or customary international law regarding rights related to food. The United States is not a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Accordingly, we interpret this resolution’s references to the right to food, with respect to States Parties to that covenant, in light of its Article 2(1). We also construe this resolution’s references to member states’ obligations regarding the right to food as applicable to the extent they have assumed such obligations.

The United States cannot support language that seeks to shape or otherwise prejudice discussions in independent organizations such as the World Trade Organization. UN resolutions should not call for increased or improved market access, which require negotiations on tariffs or non-tariff measures. Such negotiations are the purview of the WTO and we cannot accept a non-WTO body seeking to shape the WTO’s negotiating agenda. Furthermore, language on market access could implicate our trade-preference programs, which are the purview of our Congress. In addition, the United States is unable to join consensus on the General Assembly’s attempt in this resolution to prescribe the characteristics of the WTO. This is not a matter on which the General Assembly should opine. The United States also cannot support language that calls for greater cooperation and coordination between UN agencies and “international trade organizations.” The WTO is an independent body, and its Members set its agenda.

Further, the United States recognizes and supports the desire of governments to pursue policies that contribute to the food security of their population. We believe strongly that, to be successful, those policies must be consistent with relevant international rules and obligations. The United States has consistently supported many important goals of the African Union Agenda 2063 and continues to work closely with the AU and its Members to support agricultural development, and to improve food security and nutrition. We are concerned, however, by language that calls for reducing food imports, which could have a negative impact on food security and might not be consistent with trade obligations of African Members of the WTO. We hope to hold further discussions with the AU on this issue.

We also regret that this resolution includes language well beyond the scope of the subject matter of the resolution on climate change. We reiterate our concerns regarding language on the Paris Agreement and climate change addressed in our General Statement delivered on November 8, and note that the language on climate change in this resolution is not a precedent for language in other resolutions in the UN General Assembly or other fora.

The United States is also concerned about the standalone reference to agroecology in this resolution. Focusing on the advancement of agroecological principles should not be seen as preferential to or come at the expense of other practices for producing food safely, sustainably, and efficiently.

Regarding our concerns with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, trade, and technology transfer, we refer you to our General Statement delivered on November 8.