Statement on Agenda Item 66 (a), “Promotion and protection of the rights of children”

Courtney R. Nemroff
Acting U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 18, 2019


The United States joins consensus on this resolution to underscore the priority we place on our domestic and international efforts to protect and promote the well-being of children. In joining consensus today, we wish to clarify our views on several provisions and state for the record our dissociation on several elements. We will not comment explicitly on all of our concerns about the text but instead focus on its most problematic elements.

We thank the European Union and GRULAC for their flexibility in addressing our concerns over the term “sexual and reproductive health,” but note that this language is problematic for us and still remains in the resolution. The United States therefore disassociates from operative paragraphs 13 and 18 because of our concern that the terms “sexual and reproductive health” and, in certain contexts, “health-care services” have accumulated connotations that suggest the promotion of abortion or a right to abortion that are unacceptable to our Administration.

Further, the United States supports, as appropriate, optimal adolescent health and locally-driven, family-centered sex education provided in a context that increases opportunities for youth to thrive, and which empowers them to avoid all forms of sexual risk.

However, inclusion of the terms “comprehensive education … with information on sexual and reproductive health” in OP13 is unacceptable. The application of these terms often normalizes adolescent sexual experimentation, fails to incorporate family, faith and community values, and is inconsistent with public health messages that promote the highest attainable standard of health.

In general, the United States cannot ensure the enjoyment of human rights, because non-state actors can impact their enjoyment as well. We also note that while children should have the ability to be heard, there is no general right to be heard.

The U.S. government draws from a wide range of available resources to safely process migrant children, in accordance with applicable laws and is committed to ensuring that migrant children, including those in the custody of the U.S. government, are treated in a safe, dignified, and secure manner and with special concern for their particular vulnerabilities. However, we do not read this resolution to imply that states must join international instruments to which they are not a party, or that they must implement those instruments or any obligations under them. Among other things, this understanding applies to this resolution’s references to the principle of the best interests of the child, which is derived from the Convention on the Rights of the Child. For these reasons, among others, we dissociate from preambular paragraphs 9 and 21 and operative paragraphs 17, 24, 27, 28, 34(e), 35(o) and 35(q).

Generally, we prefer the phrase “child sexual abuse material or child sexual abuse imagery, often referred to or criminalized as child pornography” over “child pornography and other child sexual abuse material.” In addition, the United States also prefers to substitute the terms “child sex trafficking,” the “commercial sexual exploitation of children” or “exploitation of children in prostitution”, as appropriate, for the term “child prostitution” in operative paragraphs 8 and 16.

The United States strongly supports the registration of all children upon birth. We understand the obligations in this regard to be those set forth in Article 24(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In addition, the resolution suggests that bullying always constitutes violence. The United States notes that not all forms of bullying rise to the level of physical violence. With respect to children in armed conflict, the United States understands such references to only refer to children unlawfully recruited and used.

We request that the U.S. dissociations be reflected in the record for this meeting and for this resolution. We also refer you to our general statement from November 7 for other concerns raised by this resolution, including the ICC, climate change, economic, social and cultural rights, and education, among other issues. Thank you.