Explanation of Vote on a Third Committee Resolution on the Outcome of the World Summit for Social Development

Courtney Nemroff
Deputy U.S. Representative to ECOSOC
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
November 16, 2018


Mr. Chairperson, we regret that yet again, the United States will have to vote against this resolution. The United States is disappointed that several issues remain in this resolution that are not clearly linked to social development or the work of this Committee. The Secretary-General has called for UN reform to increase efficiency and effectiveness, and the consideration of issues not within the topic of this resolution is a misuse of resources. We must express our concerns that portions of this resolution attribute supposed negative impacts on economic and social development to vague and sweeping references to some trade practices and trade barriers.

The resolution also inappropriately calls upon international financial institutions and other non-UN organizations to take actions, such as providing debt relief, which is beyond the purview and mandate of the United Nations. For these reasons, we are calling for a vote and voting no on this resolution.

We underscore that this resolution and the other ones adopted by this Committee do not change or necessarily reflect the United States’ or other States’ obligations under treaty or customary international law. We also note 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. A few paragraph-specific observations and explanations follow.

In preambular paragraph 17, this resolution once again contains an unacceptable reference to “foreign occupation.”

In reference to operative paragraph 17, the United States believes that the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights represent an important global framework. In that regard, we understand the responsibility of business enterprises raised in this resolution to be consistent with the UN Guiding Principles. We further emphasize that the responsibility is not artificially limited to “transnational” or “private” corporations, but applies to all kinds and forms of business enterprises regardless of their size, sector, location, ownership, and structure.

Regarding economic and trade issues, it is inappropriate for the UN General Assembly to call on international financial institutions to provide debt relief, as this resolution does in operative paragraph 16.

Further, the demands in operative paragraph 26 that the international community “shall” increase market access are wholly unacceptable in a resolution such as this one. We note that General Assembly resolutions should refrain from using language such as “shall” in reference to action by Member States, in that such terminology is only appropriate with respect to binding texts. In the view of the United States, this language has no standing in this or in any other forum, including in future negotiated documents.

Regarding preambular paragraph 11, we reiterate the United States’ position regarding the topic of a “right to development.” It does not have an internationally accepted meaning that the U.S. recognizes, and any related discussion about development needs to focus on aspects that relate to the rights that are universal and that every individual may demand from his or her own government.

The climate change language in this resolution is without prejudice to U.S. positions. We affirm our support for promoting economic growth and improving energy security while protecting the environment.

We note that the term “equitable” is used in multiple contexts in this resolution. While the United States seeks fair and reciprocal trade, open investment environments, transparent agreements between nations, and improved connectivity – because these are the paths for sustainable growth – we must collectively avoid any unintended interpretation of the term “equitable” that implies a subjective assessment of fairness that, among other things, may lead to discriminatory practices.

Finally, our concerns regarding the resolution’s references to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and technology transfer, have been address in separate statements. Thank you.