Second Committee Statement on Agenda Item 20 (c) “Culture and Sustainable Development”

Daniel Fogarty
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 26, 2019


The United States believes strongly that the protection of cultural heritage in countries of origin promotes regional stability and good governance.  We also understand the importance of cultural heritage to sustainable development and well-being among indigenous peoples.  To these ends, we encourage States to modernize efforts to protect cultural property by taking into account the rights of indigenous peoples to access and/or repatriate human remains and ceremonial objects through national mechanisms, such as laws or museum policies, consistent with the aspirations of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  In 1990, the United States established a mechanism for the U.S. government to work in consultation with Native Americans to repatriate human remains and ceremonial objects.  As a result, U.S. institutions have returned approximately 1.9 million items to Native American communities that depend on them for their well-being.

While the United States is pleased to join consensus on this resolution, we take this opportunity to clarify important points related to the following paragraphs.

Regarding OP16(m), this paragraph does not invite new international mechanisms that would be duplicative of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which assists States, upon request, in achieving the aspirations of the Declaration.

Concerning OP16(l), regarding the invitation to support national legal frameworks and policies to enable intellectual property rights to sustain those involved in cultural creativity, on request, the United States is pleased to provide technical assistance to strengthen national legal frameworks for the protection of IP.  Furthermore, we strongly support international cooperation to end misappropriation of intellectual property by piracy and counterfeiting.

On OP18, the United States interprets the term “intergovernmental bodies” to include organizations such as the World Trade Organization.  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 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, whether through intergovernmental bodies or otherwise, such as technology transfer that is not voluntary and on mutually agreed terms.

With regard to OP20, the United States had hoped that the phrase “equal pay for equal work or work of equal value” would have appeared in this resolution.  This phrase reflects negotiated consensus language from the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action and has appeared in numerous UN documents since then.  The United States understands the phrase to promote pay equity between men and women, and accepts the formulation on that basis.  The United States implements it by observing the principle of “equal pay for equal work.”

We would also like to raise our concerns with the workload of this committee.  I think many of us have noticed in this year, where we have 47 resolutions – more than ever before, that our work seems more hectic and rushed.  We believe we can improve our ability to consider more thoughtfully our work if we were to address the issue of periodicity and triennialize and biennialize a number of resolutions.  There is not enough meaningful change on many topics so as to require annual consideration.

Additionally, regarding our position with respect to the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement and climate change, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the New Urban Agenda, we refer you to our remarks delivered on November 21.