U.S. Explanation of Vote on A/C.3/72/L.32/Rev.1 on Right to Food

Robin Brooks
New York City
November 16, 2017


We thank the delegation of Cuba for conducting a transparent negotiating process and for its efforts to address many of our concerns.

This Committee is meeting at a time when the international community is confronting what could be the modern era’s most serious food security emergency. Over 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, the Lake Chad Basin, and Yemen are facing famine and starvation. The United States, working with concerned partners and relevant international institutions, is fully engaged on addressing these conflict-related crises.

This Committee, and all members of the international community, should be outraged that so many people are facing food insecurity because of manmade crises caused by instability and armed conflict. The resolution before us today rightfully acknowledges the calamity facing millions of people and importantly calls on States to support the United Nations’ emergency humanitarian appeal. However, the resolution also contains many unbalanced, inaccurate, and unwise provisions that the United States cannot support. In other words, this resolution does not articulate meaningful solutions for preventing hunger and malnutrition or avoiding its devastating consequences.

The United States supports the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including food, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Domestically, the United States pursues policies that promote access to food, and it is our objective to achieve a world where everyone has adequate access to food, but we do not treat the right to food as an enforceable obligation. The United States does not recognize any change in the current state of conventional or customary international law regarding rights related to food. Moreover, we note that as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights provides, each State Party undertakes to take the steps set out in Article 2(1) “with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights.”

Furthermore, we reiterate that States are responsible for implementing their human rights obligations. This is true of all obligations that a state has assumed, regardless of external factors, including, for example, the availability of technical and other assistance. We also do not accept any reading of this resolution or related documents that would suggest that States have particular extraterritorial obligations arising from any concept of a right to food.

However, we underscore our disagreement with other inaccurate or imbalanced language in this text. We regret that this resolution contains no reference to the importance of agricultural innovations, which bring wide-ranging benefits to farmers, consumers, and innovators. Strong protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, including through the international rules-based intellectual property system, provide critical incentives needed to generate the innovation that is crucial to addressing the development challenges of today and tomorrow. The United States also does not support the resolution’s numerous references to technology transfer.

Moreover, this resolution inappropriately discusses trade-related issues, which fall outside the subject-matter and the expertise of this Committee. As we have stated on many occasions, it is not acceptable to the United States for the UN to speak to ongoing or future work of the World Trade Organization, to reinterpret WTO agreements and decisions, or to seek to shape WTO negotiations and its agenda. The WTO is an independent organization with a different membership, mandate, and rules of procedure. The language in paragraph 28 in no way supersedes or otherwise undermines the WTO Nairobi Ministerial Declaration, which all WTO Members adopted by consensus and accurately reflects the current status of the issues in those negotiations. At the WTO Ministerial Conference in Nairobi in 2015, WTO Members could not agree to reaffirm the Doha Development Agenda. As a result, WTO Members are no longer negotiating under the DDA framework. Paragraph 28 also inaccurately links trade negotiations at the WTO to the right to food.

The United States rejects operative paragraphs 29 and 35. Paragraph 29 inaccurately suggests there is a tension between international trade agreements and the right to food. Regarding paragraph 35, we cannot accept the UN opining on what WTO Members should do or consider in implementing a WTO agreement. The UN has no voice on these matters. For this same reason, we cannot accept the attempts made in paragraphs 24 and 37 for the UN to shape the agenda and negotiating priorities of the WTO.

Finally, we interpret this resolution’s reaffirmation of previous documents, resolutions, and related human rights mechanisms as applicable to the extent countries affirmed them in the first place. As for other references to previous documents, resolutions, and related human rights mechanisms, we reiterate any views we expressed upon their adoption.

For the foregoing, we will call a vote and vote “no” on this resolution.