Explanation of Position at the 71st meeting of the UN General Assembly Third Committee on Item 64: Rights of the Child

Stefanie Amadeo
U.S. Deputy Representative to ECOSOC
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 22, 2016


The United States is pleased to join consensus on this resolution. Doing so underscores the priority we place on our domestic and international efforts to protect and promote the well-being of children. For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s maternal and child survival efforts in 25 priority countries since 2008 have saved the lives of 4.6 million children. The Every Student Succeeds Act, which contains provisions that ensure educational rights and protections for homeless children and youth, is an example of our domestic efforts.

In joining consensus today, we wish to clarify our views on several provisions. We will not comment explicitly on all of our concerns about the text but instead focus on its most problematic elements.

First, we understand that the provisions of this resolution, and the others adopted by this Committee, do not imply that states must become parties to instruments to which they are not a party or implement obligations under such instruments. Any reaffirmation of prior documents in this resolution and any others adopted by this Committee applies only to those states that affirmed them initially.

We also underscore that this resolution and the other ones adopted by this Committee do not change or necessarily reflect the United States’ or other states’ obligations under treaty or customary international law. With respect to operative paragraph 3, we note that reservations are an accepted part of treaty practice and are permissible except when prohibited by a treaty or incompatible with the treaty’s object and purpose. As for operative paragraph 74, the right to consular notification under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations is held by the state of a detained person’s nationality – not that individual. Finally, with respect to operative paragraph 71 in particular, we underscore that human rights violations result from conduct by state officials and agents, not by private parties.

This resolution rightly emphasizes the importance of protecting vulnerable children. We read this resolution’s references to persons in vulnerable or marginalized families or communities or situations to include LGBTI persons and persons with disabilities.

With respect to the section on migrant children, the United States emphasizes that we will fulfill our international obligations to promote and protect the human rights of migrants by providing substantial protections under the U.S. Constitution and other domestic laws to individuals within the territory of the United States, regardless of their immigration status. We also reiterate the well-settled principle under international law that all states have the sovereign right to control admission to their territory and to regulate the admission and expulsion of foreign nationals.

The U.S. government draws from a wide range of available resources to safely process migrant children, including those who are unaccompanied, in accordance with applicable laws. In the circumstances in which migrant children are in the care and custody of the U.S. government, the United States is committed to ensuring that they are treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerabilities, as reflected in several U.S. laws, regulations, and policies concerning migrant children. We endeavor to promote the best interests of the child principle, but reiterate that the United States does not have an obligation under international or domestic law to apply that principle as a primary consideration at all times or in all actions concerning children, including immigration enforcement and immigration proceedings or criminal proceedings.

In addition, with respect to operative paragraph 68 that is drawn from operative paragraph 33 of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, General Assembly Resolution 71/1, we reiterate the concerns in our Explanation of Position on that Declaration, which are set forth in UN Document A/71/415.

In closing, the United States expresses our concern about the lack of transparency in the negotiation process for this resolution, as well as the main sponsors’ general unwillingness to incorporate states’ constructive suggestions. In this regard, we regret that the final text does not reflect many of our proposed edits, which other countries supported.