Second Committee Statement on Agenda Item 22b “Women in Development”

Danielle Maniscalco
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 27, 2019


The United States is committed to advancing the status of women and promoting their role as agents of transformation in the economic development of their countries, and therefore the world. The United States joins consensus on the “Women in Development” resolution.

The United States defends human dignity, and supports access to high-quality health care for women and girls across the lifespan. We do not accept references to “sexual and reproductive health,” “sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights,” “safe termination of pregnancy,” or other language that suggests or explicitly states that access to legal abortion is necessarily included in the more general terms “health services” or “health care services” in particular contexts concerning women. The United States believes in legal protections for the unborn, and rejects any interpretation of international human rights (such as General Comment 36 on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) to require any State Party to provide safe, legal, and effective access to abortion. As President Trump has stated, “Americans will never tire of defending innocent life.” Each nation has the sovereign right to implement related programs and activities consistent with their laws and policies. There is no international right to abortion, nor is there any duty on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion. Further, consistent with the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action and the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and their reports, we do not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, nor do we support abortion in our global health assistance. In addition, reference in OP8 regarding the International Conference on Population and Development should only include documents that are adopted by the General Assembly. For these reasons, we disassociate from operative paragraphs 8, 17, 18 and 19 and do not recognize this language as “consensus” text for any purpose going forward.

The United States’ views about the “right to development” are long-standing. The term “right to development” is not recognized in any of the core UN human rights conventions, and does not have an agreed international meaning. As we have repeatedly stated, any related discussion needs to focus on aspects of development that relate to human rights, which are universal rights held and enjoyed by individuals, and which every individual may demand from his or her own government.

We would like to reiterate our understanding of the references to “universal access to affordable and quality healthcare.” We emphasize that States do not have obligations to achieve universal access to healthcare. We encourage governments and public institutions to strive to improve access to quality universal healthcare and to do so in accordance with their national contexts and policies. The United States will continue to work to improve access to quality healthcare while also recognizing the necessary role of partnerships with the private sector and other nongovernmental stakeholders.

We join consensus on the understanding that the United States will continue to address the resolution’s goals, consistent with current U.S. law and the federal government’s authority. With respect to operative paragraph 31, we read the references to full employment to refer to the importance of productive employment because “full employment” refers to the state of an economy rather than the employment situation of individuals. We also note that the U.S. position with respect to the “temporary special measures” that operative paragraph 32 mentions is each country must determine for itself whether such measures are appropriate. The best way to improve the situation of women and girls is often through legal and policy reforms that end discrimination against women and promote equality of opportunity.

Finally, regarding our position with respect to the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Paris Agreement and climate change, we refer you to our global explanation of position delivered on November 21, 2019.