Explanation of vote by John F. Sammis, Deputy Representative to ECOSOC, on the Third Committee Resolution A/C.3/66/L.35 "Right to development,"

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


The United States stressed at the September 2011 Human Rights Council session that we would like to consider ways we can work together constructively and make the right to development a unifying, rather than divisive, issue on the international human rights agenda.  Fostering development continues to be a cornerstone of U.S. international engagement, and we are the largest bilateral donor of overseas development assistance.  President Obama, in his speech at the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Review last September, reaffirmed the United States' strong support for achievement of the MDGs and announced a new U.S. Global Development Policy that guides our overall development efforts.

That policy, which places a premium on broad-based economic growth, democratic governance, game-changing innovations, and enduring systems for meeting basic human needs, recognizes that development is a long-term proposition, and progress depends importantly on the choices of political leaders and the quality of institutions in developing countries.  Where leaders govern responsibly, set in place good policies, and make investments conducive to development, positive outcomes can be achieved.  Where those conditions are absent, it is difficult to engineer sustained progress, no matter how good our intentions or the extent of our engagement.

Achievement of development goals will be fostered by the promotion and protection of the human rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The United States agrees that economic development goals and objectives must be pursued in such a way that the development and environmental needs of present and future generations are taken into account.

These objectives align closely with the broader thrust of this resolution on the right to development. Notwithstanding, the United States must call a vote and vote no, as we do not believe the current text of the resolution reflects consensus on the best way to achieve these goals.

We have noted that discussions and resolutions on the right to development should not include unrelated material on controversial topics, particularly topics that are being addressed elsewhere. This resolution now has 44 operative paragraphs on a wide range of topics, compared to eight operative paragraphs in the September 2011 Human Rights Council resolution.

We have stated very clearly that we are not prepared to join consensus on the possibility of negotiating a binding international agreement on this topic.  We therefore cannot accept language in this resolution that contemplates an international legal standard of a binding nature.

Theoretical work is also needed to define the right to development and in particular to explain how it is a human right, i.e., a universal right that every individual possesses and may demand from his or her own government.  This fundamental concern has not been adequately addressed in this resolution.

For all these reasons, this resolution did not address our core concerns.  Nevertheless, we will engage constructively with the Open-Ended Working Group on the Right to Development in a continuing effort to move forward on this important topic.


PRN: 2011/280