Explanation of Vote on a Third Committee Resolution on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

Mordica Simpson
ECOSOC Advisor
United States
New York City
November 16, 2018


The United States maintains its long-standing commitment to international development and therefore joins consensus again on the resolution “Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.” We thank Peru for taking the lead on this resolution, which highlights the important issue of extreme poverty in all countries of the world, regardless of their economic, social, or cultural situation.

As we noted when we joined consensus on previous resolutions on extreme poverty at the UN General Assembly, we believe the Guiding Principles on extreme poverty and human rights, as referenced in this current resolution, articulate useful guidelines for consideration by states in the formulation and implementation of poverty reduction and eradication programs. However, the United States would like to recall that the Principles were adopted “as a useful tool for states” to consider in the formulation of poverty reduction and eradication strategies as appropriate. Therefore, not all aspects of the Principles may be appropriate for implementation in all circumstances under the domestic laws of states. We also emphasize that the Guiding Principles include interpretations of human rights law with which we disagree.

As such, we join consensus on this resolution today with the express understanding that this resolution does not imply that states must become parties to instruments to which they have not acceded, or implement obligations under human rights instruments to which they are not a party. By joining consensus on this resolution, we do not recognize any change in the current state of treaty or customary international law. We also understand the resolution’s reaffirmation of prior documents to apply to those who affirmed them initially and, in the case of international treaties or conventions, to those states who are party.

We underscore that this resolution, and many of the outcome documents referenced therein, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, are non-binding documents that do not create rights or obligations under international law. Regarding the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we would like to outline our specific concerns. Regarding the 2030 Agenda in this resolution, and in all other Third Committee resolutions of the 73rd Session of the UNGA, to include those that have been already adopted.

We understand references in resolutions to “internationally agreed development goals” to refer to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

We underscore that the 2030 Agenda is non-binding and does not create or affect rights or obligations under international law, nor does it create any new financial commitments.

The United States recognizes the 2030 Agenda as a global framework for sustainable development that can help countries work toward global peace and prosperity. We applaud the call for shared responsibility, including national responsibility, in the 2030 Agenda and emphasize that all countries have a role to play in achieving its vision. The 2030 Agenda recognizes that each country must work toward implementation in accordance with its own national policies and priorities.

The United States also underscores 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 also highlight our mutual recognition in paragraph 58 of the 2030 Agenda implementation must respect and be without prejudice to independent mandates of other processes and institutions, including negotiations, and does not prejudge or serve as precedent for decision 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.

We also take this opportunity to make important points of clarification regarding the reaffirmation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Specifically, we note that much of the trade-related language in the Addis 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, we recognize the significant link between human rights and development. In the words of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, “development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms” are “mutually reinforcing.” However, the United States maintains its long-standing concerns over the existence of a “right to development”. The “right to development” does not have an agreed international meaning. Furthermore, work is needed to make it consistent with human rights, which the international community recognizes as universal rights held and enjoyed by individuals and which every individual may demand from his or her own government‎.

The United States looks forward to continuing to work with our fellow Member States in the global efforts toward the elimination of poverty.

Thank you Mr. Chair.