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Diplomacy in Action

25. Explanation of the U.S. vote on UNGA Resolution 173, "The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health" at the UN General Assembly (December 22, 2003)


U.S. Delegation Explanation of Vote:
Right of Everyone to the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The United States appreciates the opportunity to give its Explanation of Vote.

The United States is committed to the betterment of public health globally and to addressing the global health emergency that is HIV/AIDS. Our actions speak to that commitment in real terms. As examples -- the President's Emergency Plan on HIV/AIDS, global disease surveillance efforts, research on the range of diseases including through public-private partnerships, and actions to address non-communicable diseases increasingly afflicting the developing world, and our financial commitment to all these issues -- these are all part of that U.S. commitment.

We believe that setting goals and targets and bringing all nations up to higher standards is necessary, but health policies and actions need to be made based on sound scientific evidence and data, and not by a rights and entitlement-based approach. We therefore particularly object to PP 2, which implies an entitlement approach, as opposed to an enablement approach. During negotiations we have proposed substituting previously agreed upon language throughout the resolution, including formulations from the preamble of the WHO Constitution and the Declaration of the Madrid Ageing Conference, but these alternatives were not accepted.

The United States did not support the creation of a Special Rapporteur for the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health. We will, of course, seek to be constructive with the Special Rapporteur, but we believe the interim report should have been noted in neutral terms only.

As to OP 13, the assertion that there is a "failure of market forces" in developing new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tools is often used to justify very restrictive regulatory tools that often further restrict the operation of markets. The language highlights failure rather than opening the door for acknowledging solutions. There is in fact a growing number of creative public-private partnerships currently underway to obtain more research dollars for vaccines, drugs, and diagnostic tools focused on diseases mainly afflicting the developing world.

For these reasons, the United States will vote NO on this resolution.

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