Explanation of Position by Craig Kuehl, United States Advisor, on Resolution L.30, Rev. 1 - The Right to Food, in the Third Committee of the Sixty-fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Craig Kuehl
United States Advisor 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
November 19, 2009


Thank you, Mr. Chair.  The United States is pleased to be able for the first time to join consensus on this resolution on the right to food. 

Combating global hunger and promoting food security is a key foreign policy objective of President Obama and his Administration.  At this year’s “G8 Plus” Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, the United States, along with more than 25 countries and organizations, agreed on principles for a comprehensive and coordinated approach to support country-led food security strategies, and collectively pledged $20 billion over the next three years to that effort.  On September 26, Secretary of State Clinton and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon co-hosted an event entitled “Partnering for Food Security,” attended by more than 130 countries, to build further support for these principles.  We look forward to working together with our partners to implement these principles in-country, on the ground.  The United States, along with others, has also pledged its commitment to the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and who live in extreme poverty by 2015.

These lofty goals received additional endorsement during this week’s World Food Summit in Rome, where assembled nations declared their commitment to timely and sustained action, emphasized shared accountability for the development and implementation of food security strategies, and underscored the continuing importance of partnering with multilateral institutions.
The United States is not a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and by joining consensus on this resolution does not recognize any change in the current state of conventional or customary international law regarding rights related to food.   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 a formal enforceable obligation.

We interpret this resolution’s references to the right to food, with respect to States Parties to the aforementioned Covenant, in light of its Article 2(1), in which they undertake to take steps “with a view to achieving progressively the full realization” of economic, social, and cultural rights.  We interpret this resolution’s references to member States’ obligations regarding the right to food as applicable to the extent they have assumed such obligations.  And while the United States has for the last decade been the world’s largest food aid donor, we do not concur with any reading of this resolution that would suggest that states have particular extraterritorial obligations arising from a right to food.

We interpret this resolution’s reaffirmation of previous documents as applicable to the extent countries affirmed those documents in the first place.  While we join this resolution’s noting with appreciation and welcoming, respectively, work of the Special Rapporteur and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, we note significant disagreements with portions of their recommendatory documents, including the Special Rapporteur’s October 2009 report and the Committee’s General Comment No. 12.

The United States is committed to international trade liberalization and to achieving an ambitious and balanced conclusion to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha Round negotiations.  By joining consensus on this resolution, we support the new market opening that can be achieved through international trade agreements, including the Doha Round, which in turn can generate the economic growth necessary to spur development.  At the same time, we wish to clarify that this resolution will in no way undermine or modify the commitments of the United States or any other government to existing trade agreements or the mandates of on-going trade negotiations. 

Similarly, the United States wishes to reiterate its view that the implementation of the WTO Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) supports comprehensive approaches to food security by establishing the necessary incentives for research and development of new plant varieties and investment in biotechnology innovations that can address the challenges faced by farmers and agricultural systems.  By joining consensus on this resolution, we support countries’ continued implementation of the TRIPS Agreement, which provides for patent and plant variety protection systems that generate many benefits for researchers, producers, consumers, and society, in the drive to promote global food security.

In this regard, we observe that the Special Rapporteur’s report could have been significantly strengthened by presenting a balanced view of the benefits of adequate and effective intellectual property rights and plant variety protection for promoting important research and investment, addressing the needs of farmers, and ensuring food security.

Finally, we wish to acknowledge the flexibility shown by the co-sponsors during these negotiations.

I thank you Mr. Chair.


PRN: 2009/276