General Explanation of Position on Second Committee Resolutions in the 77th Session of the UN General Assembly

Nicholas Hill
U.S. Deputy Representative to the Economic and Social Council
New York, New York
November 21, 2022


On behalf of the United States government, I would like to extend our thanks to Lachezara Stoeva as chair of this Second Committee session, as well as to the Vice Chairs. We recognize their hard work and dedication, which has kept the important work of the Second Committee on track despite unusually challenging circumstances. Russia’s illegal war against Ukraine has exacerbated precisely the challenges the world comes to the Second Committee to resolve. We are proud to stand in solidarity with Member States in support of the UN Charter and international law.

We take this opportunity to clarify the U.S. policy position on several issues found in Second Committee resolutions.

The United States stands with the broad community of nations that shares our vision for the future of an international order governed by the UN Charter; where the universal rights of all individuals are upheld; where our environment, air, oceans, space, cyberspace, and channels of commerce are protected and accessible to all; and where multilateral institutions such as the United Nations rise to meet our global challenges. It was inspiring to see that community of nations come together and achieve consensus on such a broad range of issues this year.

We are particularly pleased to see so much common ground on the future of sustainable development. As reflected in the Biden-Harris Administration’s National Security Strategy, issued in October, the United States remains committed to advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The United States takes an inclusive approach to the SDGs, drawing on expertise from government at all levels, civil society, the private sector, and the development community, with more than 20 U.S. government agencies partnering globally to advance all 17 SDGs and promote peace and prosperity for all.

Consensus Documents: We stand by the commonly agreed norms that have upheld the integrity and effectiveness of the United Nations and multilateral system. Resolutions negotiated as part of the Second Committee should only reference Member State-negotiated outcome documents from UN conferences. We do not support references to conference host statements, such as the Kunming Declaration. We likewise oppose the elevation of any single Member State’s ideology, foreign policy platforms, or verbatim core domestic policies into documents meant to reflect a global perspective.

Geopolitical Tensions and Conflict: The COVID-19 pandemic, protracted conflicts, growing fragility, a resurgence of authoritarianism, and climate shocks have threatened people’s lives and livelihoods and global stability. Russia’s brutal and unjustified war against Ukraine has only aggravated these threats, contributing to a surge in food and energy prices, exacerbating poverty and eroding food security worldwide. As the Secretary General unequivocally stated, Russia’s war will “prolong the dramatic impacts on the global economy, especially in developing countries, and hinder our ability to deliver life-saving aid.” We understand “geopolitical tensions and conflicts” referenced in Second Committee resolutions to refer specifically to Russia’s war against Ukraine that has unraveled years of progress on the SDGs and impacted stability everywhere. The United States remains firmly committed to working with fellow Member States to confront these transnational threats to peace and prosperity and get back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: The United States remains committed to advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We welcome international collaboration to pursue more inclusive development partnerships, especially by putting local partners in the driver’s seat. At their heart, the SDGs are about expanding economic opportunity, social justice, caring for our planet, good governance, and ensuring no one is left behind. That is the American mission at its core, as illustrated by President Biden’s focus on equity and justice both at home and abroad. We strongly support this year’s 2C resolutions that emphasize the interests of marginalized communities — as we see throughout the 17 SDGs, human rights and equity are what make development truly sustainable.

We reaffirm our position on the 2030 Agenda as detailed in our Explanation of Position delivered on September 1, 2015. As the Agenda itself recognizes in paragraph 18, it is non-binding and does not create new or affect existing rights or obligations under international law, nor does it create any new financial commitments. As we support the 2030 Agenda, the United States takes care to uphold and respect the authority, independent mandates, and role of other processes and institutions outside the UN system. We call on all other Member States to do the same. We highlight our mutual recognition, in paragraph 58 of the 2030 Agenda, that implementation must respect and be without prejudice to the independent mandates of other processes and institutions and cannot prejudge or serve as precedent for decisions and actions underway in independent forums. Similarly, indicators, governance proposals, and language developed through this process have no precedential value for the International Financial Institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group.

We underscore a central premise of the 2030 Agenda that the 17 SDGs are interconnected and indivisible, and that truly sustainable development requires progress on all 17 SDGs, including those that emphasize citizen-responsive governance, human rights, government transparency, and the rule of law.

Addis Ababa Action Agenda: We note that trade-related language in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda outcome document is immaterial to U.S. trade policy. Our reaffirmation of the outcome document has no standing for ongoing work and negotiations that involve trade.

Trade: The United States continues decades of support for strong and growing trade relationships around the globe. We welcome efforts to bolster those relationships, increase economic cooperation, and advance prosperity for all people, within the appropriate institutions.

It is our view that the UN must respect the independent mandates of other processes and institutions, including trade negotiations, and must not attempt to influence independent institutions through comment on decisions and actions in other forums, including the WTO.

While the UN and WTO share some common interests, they have different roles, rules, and memberships.

We underscore our position that trade language, negotiated or adopted by the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council or under their auspices, has no relevance for U.S. trade policy, for our trade obligations or commitments, or for the agenda at the World Trade Organization, including discussions or negotiations in that forum. Similarly, this includes calls to adopt approaches that may undermine incentives for innovation, such as technology transfer that is not both voluntary and on mutually agreed terms.

Special Drawing Rights (SDRs): The roughly $650 billion general allocation of SDRs in August 2021 helped enhance liquidity for emerging market and developing countries and countries’ efforts to address and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. We welcome the operationalization of the Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST) and look forward to the first RST-supported programs later this year. We cannot support language linking SDRs, or SDR channeling, to SDGs (e.g., sustainable development) as SDRs are not designed for that purpose. A general SDR allocation is intended to help address the global need for reserve assets. At this time, we do not support a new general SDR allocation due to global liquidity and inflation conditions. SDRs are international reserve assets, but they are not a currency, and the technical features and structure of SDRs as international reserve assets make them unsuitable for those purposes. More broadly, the UN, which has a membership and mandate that is distinct from the IMF, is not the appropriate venue for discussing the IMF’s institutional structure, or for calling on the IMF to take specific actions.

Sovereign Debt: Prudent debt management, including avoiding excessive debt accumulation and maintaining sufficient buffers to withstand external shocks, is first and foremost the responsibility of sovereign borrowers as debtors. This does not, however, take away from the role of creditors to lend in a responsible and transparent manner, abide by global best practices, and support debt treatments in a timely manner when unsustainable debt situations arise.

Fiscal and debt transparency are critical to debt sustainability. We are concerned by the growth of untransparent debt, including off-balance-sheet debt and debt hidden by non-disclosure clauses in loan contracts. Not only does untransparent debt increase the risk of debt crises, but it can also prolong their duration and create barriers to resolutions, including to needed debt treatments. We call on creditors and debtors to each do their part to support greater fiscal and debt transparency and remove barriers to transparency. We are concerned by attempts to undermine or improperly influence the role of the IMF, including its objective assessment and determination of debt sustainability. We emphasize the purpose of debt restructurings and debt forgiveness is the fundamental restoration of debt sustainability in unsustainable debt situations, and not to finance ad hoc policy initiatives. While recognizing that debt swaps, in an appropriate context, may be used to support certain policy goals, it is important to note that debt swaps are generally weak and inappropriate tools to address fundamental debt sustainability issues. Debt swaps cannot replace reform-backed IMF programs and broad debt treatments designed to restore long-run debt sustainability in unsustainable situations.

Official Concessional Finance: The proper forums to discuss eligibility measures for concessional finance and official development assistance are the Boards of the Multilateral Development Banks themselves and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The UN is not the appropriate venue for determining eligibility for, and allocation of, these resources.

Economic Sanctions: With respect to the New Urban Agenda, the United States believes that each Member State can determine how it conducts trade with other countries and that this includes restricting trade in certain circumstances. Economic sanctions can be an appropriate, effective, and legitimate tool to achieve national security and foreign policy objectives. In cases where the United States has applied sanctions, we have done so with specific objectives in mind, including as a means to promote a return to rule of law, democratic systems, or respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, or to respond to threats to international security.

Access to COVID-19 Health Products: We underscore the critical importance of facilitating timely, equitable access to safe, effective, and quality-assured COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and other relevant health products. Multilateral and regional efforts to improve global access to these products should rely on those that have been listed for emergency use or prequalified by the World Health Organization, or that have been authorized by stringent regulatory authorities/WHO-Listed Authorities, such as the Food and Drug Administration or European Medicines Agency. Unsafe, ineffective, substandard, or falsified vaccine products could have adverse public health consequences and undermine confidence in the global response effort and in safe and effective COVID-19 tools.

Disaster Risk Reduction: The United States reiterates our views on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction from the U.S. Explanation of Position delivered in 2015. We dedicate significant resources around the world to support disaster risk-reduction initiatives designed to reduce loss of life and the social and economic impacts of disasters. This assistance and collaboration help recipients build a culture of preparedness, promote greater resilience, and aid in climate adaptation reducing impact of climate related disasters.

Quotas/Temporary Special Measures for Women and Girls: With respect to quotas, affirmative action measures, temporary special measures, and other measures intended to achieve parity for women and girls, the U.S. position is that each country must determine for itself whether such measures are appropriate. We do not believe it is a useful exercise to urge the use of quotas and rigid numerical targets, particularly in the context of political representation and government employment, without consideration for domestic anti-discrimination legal frameworks and obligations under international law to ensure every citizen has an equal right and opportunities, without discrimination, to take part in the conduct of public affairs. The best way to improve the situation of women and girls is through legal and policy reforms that end discrimination and promote and provide equal access to opportunities.

The “Right to Development”: The “right to development” is not recognized in any of the core UN human rights conventions and does not have an agreed international meaning. The United States welcomes the opportunity to develop and advance such an agreed understanding with Member States.

Thank you.