Explanation of Vote on a Third Committee Resolution on Rights of Peasants

Courtney Nemroff
Deputy U.S. Representative to ECOSOC
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
November 19, 2018


Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My delegation has called for a vote on this resolution as we have persistent, fundamental difficulties with the text of the annexed Declaration proposed for adoption. We have previously articulated our position regarding the “Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas” in other fora, so I will limit myself to addressing four principal issues that have led us to call a vote today.

Mr. Chair, while the United States is concerned about challenges confronting people working in rural areas and undertakes numerous initiatives to improve the circumstances for members of these groups, international human rights law bestows rights on individuals, not on groups. Accordingly, the United States, cannot agree with the Declaration’s claim that rights for rural workers are “collective,” or that categories of individuals, as such, described in the Declaration merit different or special treatment in the international human rights framework.

Moreover, the Declaration assumes the existence of rights for which there is no internationally accepted definition or recognition. Recognizing the good intentions of those who endorsed the Declaration, we must nevertheless call to mind that the so-called “rights” to seeds, to return to the land, to use traditional ways of farming, to food sovereignty, and to biological diversity simply do not exist under international human rights law.

The Declaration also purports to exert authority over the sovereign, having been drafted using language such as “shall.” Although the Declaration is not legally binding, it is replete with the word “shall,” leaving the door open for significant misunderstanding.

Finally, the United States does not support the references to technology transfer in this Declaration, as well as other language that potentially undermines intellectual property rights. We support technology transfer only when voluntary and on mutually agreed terms, which facilitates innovation. A declaration of this sort is not the appropriate vehicle for pronouncements on technology transfer or intellectual property. Inclusion of such language is an attempt to prejudice negotiations underway or anticipated in other more appropriate fora.

The United States recognizes that individuals in rural communities continue to face barriers that prevent them from attaining the quality of life they deserve, including disproportionate levels of poverty and access to infrastructure, but the resolution containing references to this Declaration considered for adoption today distracts from efforts to rectify these conditions. Instead, it abandons the search for practical solutions in lieu of repeated, single-minded misstatements of the state of international law.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.