Remarks at the Beginning of Consideration of Draft Proposals in the Second Committee

Jason Lawrence
Adviser for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 17, 2017


Good afternoon. I would like to express our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Julian. I considered him a friend.

I would like to thank Second Committee Chair Estonia, under the strong leadership of Ambassador Jürgenson. The Chair has ably guided the negotiation schedule over the last several weeks, and we are appreciative of the discipline to ensure that the Committee’s work finishes by November 22. We also thank all the negotiators and facilitators in the Committee who have labored and continue to labor over these texts with good faith, intelligence, patience, and good humor.

As this Committee continues to take action on the resolutions negotiated during this session, we take this opportunity to make important points of clarification on some of the language we see reflected across multiple resolutions. We underscore that General Assembly resolutions, 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 which do not create rights or obligations under international law, nor bind states to any financial commitments except when expressly agreed.

Regarding the reaffirmation of the 2030 Agenda, the United States recognizes the 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 in the Agenda and emphasize that all countries have a role to play in achieving its vision. We also strongly support national responsibility stressed in the Agenda. However, each country has its own development priorities, and we emphasize that countries must work towards implementation in accordance with their own national policies and priorities.

We also highlight our mutual recognition, in paragraph 58 of the 2030 Agenda, that implementation of this Agenda must respect and be without prejudice to the independent mandates of other processes and institutions, including negotiations, and does not prejudge or serve as precedent for decisions 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 – TRIPS Agreement.

We 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 AAAA outcome document has been overtaken by events since July 2015 and is immaterial. Our reaffirmation of the outcome document has no standing for ongoing work and negotiations involving trade. Indeed, some of the intervening events happened just months after the release of the outcome document. Additionally, on the topic of access to concessional finance for middle-income countries, we note that the multilateral development banks – MDBs – and bilateral assistance providers should to the extent possible target their scarce concessional financing to the poorest and least creditworthy countries. Rather than try to preserve access to concessional finance, the MDBs’ and other providers’ implementation of their graduation policies should aim to smooth the transition away from concessional assistance to other sources.

The United States notes that the President announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement as soon as it is eligible to do so, unless he can identify terms that are more favorable to American businesses, workers, and taxpayers. While our climate policy is under review, we must note our concerns with language related to the Paris Agreement across many of the Second Committee resolutions. We recognize that climate change is a complex global challenge and affirm our strong commitment to an approach that lowers emissions while supporting economic growth and improving energy security needs.

Our intention is that this statement applies to action on all agenda items in the Second Committee. We request that this statement be made part of the official record of the meeting.

Thank you very much.