Remarks at the Opening of the UN General Assembly Second Committee

Ambassador Kelley Currie
U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 9, 2018


Thank you, Madam Chair. On behalf of the United States, let me congratulate you, our Chair, and the rest of the Bureau on your election.

I want to thank the Secretary-General for laying out a vision to reform the United Nations for impact and efficiency to better serve the people of our countries. Let’s take his vision to heart in the Second Committee. Perhaps nowhere in the General Assembly is reform more necessary than in the Second Committee. Frankly, this Committee long has become weighed down by stale debates informed by long-discredited ideologies and narrow interests.

There is far too little attention paid to what drives truly sustainable development, including the rule of law, human rights, good governance, women’s empowerment, and the participation of civil society and the private sector. One issue of particular concern for many of us is the incorporation of language meant to target a domestic political audience into multilateral documents. None of us should support this blatant misuse of UN resolutions and documents.

In addition, the General Assembly’s revitalization efforts call for us to biennialize or triennialize resolutions. There are a number of Second Committee resolutions that can benefit from such an effort, if only Member States would exercise the necessary self-discipline to undertake it. Let’s work together to make this happen this year.

We all have limited resources that we should not continue to waste on outdated, irrelevant, and ineffective resolutions. We will look to the Bureau to enforce clear deadlines for both the submission of resolutions and the conclusion of negotiations; to meet our goal of finishing the Committee’s work on time; and to restrict negotiations to normal business hours.

Last year the United States called for votes on a record number of resolutions that dealt with sensitive trade-related matters, and we are prepared to do so again. As President Trump has made clear, 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.

The United States enjoys strong and growing trade relationships across the globe. We welcome efforts to bolster those relationships, increase economic cooperation, and drive prosperity to all of our peoples through free, fair, and reciprocal trade.

However, as President Trump also stated to the General Assembly on September 25, the United States will act in its sovereign interest, including on trade matters. This means that we do not take our trade policy direction from the United Nations.

It is our view that the United Nations must respect the independent mandates of other processes and institutions, including trade negotiations, and must not involve itself in decisions and actions underway in other forums, including at the World Trade Organization.

The UN is not the appropriate venue for these discussions, and there should be no expectation or misconception that the United States would heed decisions made by the Economic and Social Council or the General Assembly on these issues. This includes calls that undermine incentives for innovation, such as calls for technology transfer that is not voluntary and on mutually agreed terms.

The U.S. commitment to international development is enshrined in our National Security Strategy, and the United States is proud to be the world’s largest provider of Official Development Assistance, ODA. However, the scale and impact of private capital, domestic resource mobilization, philanthropy, remittances and other financial flows, and enhanced commerce and investment now dwarf ODA’s role in development finance. The diversity of financing promises to increase developing countries’ self-reliance. We should all welcome this.

When the United States invests in developing countries, we aim to ensure that our work does not displace the private sector or subsidize projects that can or should find their own financing. We also ensure that our investments uphold the highest governance, environmental, social, and worker rights standards.

The private sector effectively and significantly contributes to economic growth in developing countries. The United States is collaborating, co-financing, and co-designing programs, tools, and initiatives with the private sector. The U.S. government’s plan to create a reformed, modern U.S. development finance institution – with 21st century tools – the BUILD Act – was signed into law just a few days ago. This is a remarkable achievement that promises lasting impact for decades to come.

The private sector is a driver and sustainer of development, and we know that we need to re-envision its role within the United Nations accordingly. The United Nations should embrace working with the private sector and make it easier to forge real, action-oriented partnerships with commercial firms from all over the world.

We also need to support the vital role of women in economic growth and make sure women have every opportunity to earn their way to economic leadership roles. Women make up more than half of the world’s population but only 40 percent of the global labor force. Closing the global gender gap in labor markets could increase worldwide GDP by as much as $28 trillion by 2025. Twenty-eight trillion dollars – think about that for a moment.

Women’s full participation in the global economy is absolutely necessary to achieve sustainable economic growth and development. The U.S. government is committed to continuing our efforts to expand entrepreneurship, unleash access to capital and technology, and enhance women’s labor force participation. Investing in women and girls is not just the right thing to do; it’s smart policy, and it’s smart economics.

For example, the United States has launched the 2X Initiative, which will mobilize from the private sector more than $1 billion to projects that support women in developing countries, unlocking the multi-trillion dollar investment opportunity women represent.

Madam Chair, colleagues, we look forward to working with you in the weeks ahead, and let us all play our part in making the Second Committee more efficient, relevant and effective.

Thank you.