Explanation of Vote on a Third Committee Resolution on Human Rights and Unilateral Coercive Measures

Eric Merron
U.S. Adviser for the Third Committee
New York, New York
November 7, 2023


This resolution does not advance respect for or protection of human rights. The United States is committed to working with all States parties to achieve our common objectives related to advancing human rights. However, a small number of Member States insist on advancing a politically motivated agenda related to so-called Unilateral Coercive Measures. Economic sanctions are a legitimate, appropriate, and effective tool for responding to harmful activity and addressing threats to peace and security. Sanctions can be used to promote accountability for human rights violations and abuses, respond to malign behavior, and counter transnational crime, terrorism, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Sanctions are expressly a tool for promoting positive and enduring behavior change. We are clear and transparent about these goals.

The United States uses sanctions in a manner consistent with international law with these objectives in mind; it is not alone in that view or practice.

This resolution inappropriately challenges the ability of States to determine their economic relations and protect legitimate national interests, including taking actions in response to national security concerns. The resolution also attempts to undermine the international community’s ability to respond to human rights violations and abuses.

The United States is mindful of the potential unintended consequences of sanctions. Our efforts are intended to constrain the abuses of governments, not harm their people. Internationally, we co-penned UN Security Council Resolution 2664 to create a clear carveout for humanitarian efforts in all UN sanctions regimes. This historic initiative eased the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need while helping ensure aid is not diverted or abused by malicious actors. The United States has numerous humanitarian authorizations in our domestic sanctions programs that are specifically designed to ensure our sanctions impact intended targets while limiting the unintended consequences on innocent people. These authorizations include the humanitarian-related general licenses we announced in December 2022 that implement and build upon UNSCR 2664. Making sure our sanctions are truly targeted and smart is essential to achieving our intended goals, including preventing nefarious actors from abusing the international financial system or undermining respect for human rights.

Those who suggest sanctions are inherently unjustified advance a false narrative, and we cannot support this language. Simply put, it is not sanctions that undermine respect for human rights; it is, rather, those who commit human rights violations and abuses.

For these reasons, we request a vote, and we will vote against this resolution.