Explanation of Position Delivered by John F. Sammis, Deputy Representative to ECOSOC, on the Third Committee Resolution A/C.3/66/L.38 "The right to food,"

John F. Sammis
United States Deputy Representative to ECOSOC 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
November 22, 2011


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

Improving global food security is a key foreign policy objective of the Obama Administration. The U.S. government has launched the Feed the Future initiative, and pledged at least $3.5 billion over three years to help our partner countries improve the entire agriculture value chain - from fields to markets to homes. And that is the central pillar of our commitment to sustainable solutions to hunger.

The United States is committed to accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, including by investing in country plans to boost agricultural development as a means for achieving the hunger and poverty-related MDG-- reducing by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger and who live in extreme poverty by 2015.

This resolution reiterates previous language on a continuing world food crisis. Whereas we agree that we are experiencing regional crises, particularly in the Horn of Africa, and we are experiencing a period of food and commodity price volatility in some parts of the world, we, along with many other members of the world community, do not believe we are currently in a world food crisis.

This has been reinforced by such UN bodies as the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), which have issued warnings about high food prices and price volatility but have made clear that the current situation is not a world food crisis. Furthermore, while the resolution identifies a number of factors that contribute to food insecurity, it omits the very significant and undisputed role of conflict and lack of governance in causing regional food insecurity.

While we are not currently in a global food crisis, we do strongly agree with the reference to the crisis in the Horn of Africa, where there are over 13 million people who are at risk of starvation and malnutrition. As many as 750,000 people are currently experiencing famine-level conditions. Tens of thousands of people, mostly children, have already died. The United States is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to the region, now providing over $750 million in life-saving assistance to those in need. This assistance has reached nearly 4.6 million people, many of whom would otherwise have died from starvation or related diseases.

We support the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living, including food, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States is not a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and 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 an 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. While we join this resolution's welcoming the work of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including its General Comment No. 12, we note significant disagreements with some portions of its work and that General Comment. We interpret this resolution's reaffirmation of previous documents as applicable to the extent countries affirmed those documents in the first place.

We also reiterate our concern about unattributed statements of a technical or scientific nature in this resolution. The United States does not necessarily agree with such unattributed statements.

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 highlight that opening markets through international trade agreements, like the Doha Round, 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 encouraging policies that will enable countries to use tools and incentives, including biotechnology, that increase agricultural productivity. 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.


PRN: 2011/276