U.S. Statement and Explanation of Position on CFS 47: Voluntary Guidelines on Food Security and Nutrition

CFS 47: Voluntary Guidelines on Food Security and Nutrition
February 10, 2021, 9:30 a.m. (Rome)

• The Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition are the endpoint
of an enormous effort by the Committee on World Food Security to reach
consensus on a set of recommendations to improve performance across food
systems for nutrition. We extend our gratitude to the Chair, and former
• The Voluntary Guidelines are ambitious as they seek to enhance food system
performance across the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social,
and economic. They offer advice on building more sustainable food systems
and improving nutrition for all, for current and future generations.
• Importantly, the Voluntary Guidelines do not categorize some food systems
or agricultural approaches as sustainable or unsustainable. Our efforts to
improve the sustainability of agriculture must be evaluated against
measurable outcomes at the appropriate level on food affordability and
accessibility, farmer income and wellbeing, and environmental indicators.
The guidelines acknowledge we must do the hard work of assessing real
impacts and outcomes.
• The Guidelines also highlight that there is not a one-size fits all approach to
improving nutrition or the sustainability of agriculture or food systems and
that recommendations should be adapted to local contexts. As a result, the
Voluntary Guidelines largely avoid overly prescriptive approaches that limit
the ability of governments to develop solutions.
• The Voluntary Guidelines recognize the vital role the private sector can play
in promoting healthy diets and more sustainable food systems. Reaching
these twin goals is an endeavor that truly requires all sectors to work
• Perhaps most importantly, the Guidelines lay the foundation for a
“sustainable food systems” approach to food security and nutrition that
recognizes the complexity of food systems and the fact that decisions made
at one point in a system can reverberate throughout the system. This
approach seeks to balance the social, economic, and environmental
dimensions of sustainable development and recognizes the need to assess
and manage tradeoffs. The balanced, holistic sustainable food systems
approach outlined in the Guidelines provides a strong foundation for our
efforts to build more sustainable food systems and for the UN Food Systems
• We would like to note that the United States interprets the section on the
make-up of healthy diets to call for regional and cultural flexibility in dietary
patterns which best support their populations to consume healthy diets. We
also interpret “nutrients of public health concern” to be both important
nutrients that are required but consumed below recommendations (e.g.,
dietary fiber), or that people consume too much of (e.g., sodium).
• As mentioned during the negotiations, there remain issues in the Guidelines
the United States does not fully support. Therefore, the United States
endorses these guidelines with an Explanation of Position.
• Mr. Chair, the United States requests that this Explanation of Position be
included, full-text, as an annex in the Committee’s plenary report. We also
request a footnote be added to the page in which the Committee endorses the
Guidelines, noting the U.S. Explanation of Position.
• I will now read our Explanation of Position at dictation speed so that it can
be entered into the record. Following my intervention, we will provide a
text copy to the Secretariat.

U.S. Explanation of Position:

• Paragraph 3.2.4(d) of the Guidelines: We interpret the comment on
“agreed relevant international and national standards” to mean that the
Guidelines should be complementary to standards adopted by international
standards setting bodies and adapted to national contexts, given that national
standards do not need agreement from outside parties. We emphasize that
specific recommendations contained in the Guidelines should be considered
as one option out of many possible tools depending on local contexts.

• Paragraph 40 of the Guidelines: The Guidelines should be applied
consistent with other instruments only as far as each of these instruments are
relevant and applicable and as far as they have been agreed, acknowledged
and/or endorsed by respective Member States and without prejudice to
prevailing international agreements. The United States underscores that
paragraph 18 of the 2030 Agenda calls for countries to implement the
Agenda in a manner that is consistent with the rights and obligations of
States under international law. We further note that the 2030 Agenda is nonbinding and does not create or affect rights or obligations under international
law, nor does it create any new financial commitments. We also highlight
our mutual recognition that 2030 Agenda implementation must respect and
be without prejudice to the independent mandates of other processes and
institutions, including negotiations, and does not prejudge or serve as
precedent for decisions and actions underway in other forums.
• Paragraph 44 of the Guidelines: Economic sanctions, whether unilateral
or multilateral, can be a successful means of achieving foreign policy
objectives. In cases where the United States has applied sanctions, we have
used them with specific objectives in mind, including as a means to promote
a return to rule of law or democratic systems, to insist on the protection of
human rights and fundamental freedoms, or to prevent threats to
international security. We are within our rights to deploy our trade and
commercial policy as tools to achieve our objectives. Targeted economic
sanctions can be an appropriate, effective, and legitimate alternative to the
use of force.
• Paragraph 45 of the Guidelines: The United States would like to note that
the negotiations to eliminate agricultural export subsidies referenced in
paragraph 45 of the Guidelines, were finalized during the Tenth World
Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference (MC10). The United
States maintains that it is incorrect to imply that the Doha Development
Round negotiations were concluded on these issues, and any reference to the
Doha Development Agenda should be avoided.
• Paragraph 65 of the Guidelines: It is our view that the CFS must respect
the independent mandates of other processes and institutions, including trade
negotiations, and must not involve itself in decisions and actions in other
forums, including at the WTO. This includes calls that undermine incentives
for innovation, such as technology transfer that is not both voluntary and on
mutually agreed terms. The United States would also like to note that
implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines should be consistent with
paragraph 18 of the 2030 Agenda, which “emphasizes that the Agenda is to
be implemented in a manner that is consistent with the rights and obligations
of States under international law.
• Paragraph 66 of the Guidelines: We note that the 2030 Agenda for
Sustainable Development calls for action by all. We regret that language was
inserted into these voluntary guidelines that seeks to selectively highlight
different elements of the 2030 Agenda that are not broadly germane to the
topic at hand and distract from its focus. This language should not be seen as
a precedent for future documents. We underscore here that recalling
selective paragraphs from the 2030 Agenda does not change their meaning
or application, and paragraph 66 of the Guidelines indicates that they are
recalled only to the extent relevant. For example, by recalling paragraph 12
of the 2030 Agenda, which reaffirms all the principles of the Rio
Declaration, it should not be understood that all of the principles of the Rio
Declaration are applicable to the range of issues addressed in these
guidelines. Furthermore, with respect to the quoted footnote language on
common but differentiated responsibilities, we note that the 2030 Agenda
only reaffirmed that principle as it was set out in principle 7 of the Rio
Declaration on Environment and Development, where it was explicitly
limited to certain types of global environmental degradation. Recalling
paragraph 12 of the 2030 Agenda in this context does not imply, and the
United States does not accept, that this principle has relevance or application
to the broad range of issues addressed in these voluntary guidelines, the
2030 Agenda, food security or to sustainable development as a whole.
• Paragraphs 3.1.1(c) & 3.3.1(a) of the Guidelines: The United States
would like to note its concern on two references to multilateral trade:
paragraph 3.1.1(c) and paragraph 3.3.1(a). In both paragraphs, the language
appears to blend references from the Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs) with references to multilateral trade under the World Trade
Organization (WTO). We are concerned that blending voluntary
commitments from the SDGs, with legally binding obligations agreed to by
WTO Members, creates confusion around the scope of what has been agreed
to in the WTO. For greater clarity, these two sentences should reference
“…a rules-based, open, non-discriminatory, transparent, and predictable
multilateral trading system…”, to reflect concepts that have been agreed to
by WTO Members and are foundational principles of the multilateral trading
system. These two sentences should exclude “universal” and “equitable”,
terms used in the context of voluntary commitments.
• Paragraph 3.1.4(a) of the Guidelines: The United States reaffirms its
support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As
explained in our 2010 Statement of Support, “the United States recognizes
the significance of the Declaration’s provisions on free, prior and informed
consent, which the United States understands to call for a process of
meaningful consultation with tribal leaders, but not necessarily the
agreement of those leaders, before the actions addressed in those
consultations are taken
• The United States is pleased to endorse the Voluntary Guidelines on
Food Systems and Nutrition with the inclusion of this Explanation of
Position as the Voluntary Guidelines lay the foundation for a sustainable
food systems approach to food security and nutrition. Unfortunately, despite
our best efforts at working towards consensus language in all areas of the
Voluntary Guidelines, the United States must disassociate from certain
paragraphs due to the following issues. This Explanation of Position
includes U.S. comments on paragraphs 3.2.4(d) and 40 of the Guidelines,
and the United States disassociates from paragraphs 44, 45, 65, 66, 3.1.1(c),
3.3.1(a), and 3.1.4(a) of the Guidelines.

• Mr. Chair, this is the end of our Explanation of Position.