Remarks on A/C.3/72/L.50/Rev.1 on Twentieth Anniversary and Promotion of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Or

Mordica Simpson
ECOSOC Advisor
United States
New York City
November 20, 2017


We would like to offer this general statement. The United States is proud again to co-sponsor this important resolution recognizing the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection. We thank the main sponsor, Norway, for its work on this text and these negotiations.

We stand with human rights defenders around the world and applaud their tremendous dedication and courage as, sometimes at great risk to themselves; they work to ensure that their governments protect and promote human rights and implement their human rights obligations and commitments. Because human rights defenders seek to hold their governments accountable to protect universal human rights, they are often harassed, detained, interrogated, imprisoned, tortured, and even killed for doing their work. The work of these brave individuals and groups is an integral part of the vibrant civil society necessary for democracy to thrive. It is, therefore, important to enable human rights defenders to promote and defend human rights without hindrance or undue restriction and free from fear of retribution against themselves or their families.

States need to combat impunity by ensuring that those responsible for violations and abuses against human rights defenders and their associates are promptly brought to justice through impartial investigations. It is also the responsibility of States to provide an enabling environment for human rights defenders and civil society. States must fully implement their human rights obligations, including those relating to non-discrimination, to be able to meet their responsibility to prevent threats, harassment and violence, including gender-based violence, against human rights defenders. And the United Nations must act to prevent reprisals against human rights defenders who bring their concerns before UN mechanisms.

The United States strongly supports the rights of individuals who advocate on behalf of human rights and ideals that the individuals believe are or should become human rights; this should not be understood to mean that the United States itself recognizes such rights or categories of rights or that the United States must implement treaties to which it is not a party.

With respect to operative paragraph 12, this should not be read in any way to shift the State responsibility to protect human rights to non-state actors or to extend new responsibilities or obligations to non-state actors. We encourage non-state actors, including transnational corporations and other business enterprises, to respect human rights.

With respect to preambular paragraph 15, we note that this paragraph directly quotes Article 17 of the 1998 Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and, as such, does not create any international legal obligations.

We understand the resolution’s references to privacy, including its appropriate safeguards, in light of Article 17 of the ICCPR.

Finally, with regard to this resolution’s references to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we have addressed our concerns in a separate U.S. statement this morning.