Joint Meeting of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development and the Permanent Council

USOAS Political Counselor Addresses the OAS Permanent Council. (August 20, 2023)

“Tools for the Development and Strengthening of Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights” 

Remarks by
Tom Lersten
USOAS Political Counselor
 August 30, 2023 

Madam Chair, ladies and gentlemen, esteemed guests, and colleagues, 

The United States welcomes the convening of this Joint Meeting of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development and the Permanent Council, focusing on “Tools for the Development and Strengthening of Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights” in the Americas. 

This session is a testament to a shared commitment to collaborate constructively on these matters. We extend our thanks to the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico for spearheading today’s dialogue. 

 The United States remains steadfast in its dedication to addressing the economic, social, cultural and other needs of our people through effective public policies. As President Biden has stated, U.S. policy is to “pursue a comprehensive approach to advancing equity for all … Affirmatively advancing equity, civil rights, racial justice, and equal opportunity is the responsibility of the whole of our Government.” 

 Our support for the adoption of the Declaration “Advancing and Promoting Social Justice and Equity in the Americas” in March by the Permanent Council underscores the commitment of the United States to these principles.  

 OAS reiterated by Secretary of State Blinken in June here at the OAS General Assembly, we also embrace scrutiny and consider carefully the views of a wide spectrum of voices — including journalists, human rights defenders, and regional and multilateral organizations.   

This was demonstrated by recent visits to the United States by Soledad García Muñoz, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (REDESCA).  These visits addressed matters concerning homelessness, indigenous issues, and climate change. We take the resulting recommendations seriously, and encourage all OAS member states to welcome similar visits to foster dialogue and understanding.  

 And we also wish Soledad the very best in her future continued endeavors — it was a sincere pleasure for us to work with her throughout her tenure as Special Rapportuer. 

 Madam Chair, the United States tirelessly works to promote non-discrimination and equality.  

 Bearing in mind that we are not party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights or the Protocol of San Salvador, we approach discussions on these topics cognizant of states’ obligations to the extent they have assumed them.  

 For our part, the United States strongly supports ongoing efforts here at the OAS to promote equity in the region through the IACHR, the Access to Rights and Equity Secretariat (SARE), and Inter-American ministerials on social and sustainable development. 

 This is because we recognize the critical importance of economic and social stability in the Western Hemisphere.  Challenges faced by our neighbors have ripple effects that can directly impact the safety and prosperity of U.S. communities. 

 Notable achievements with the support of the OAS and the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) include advancements in prosperity in Northern Central America, support for Colombia’s economic prosperity and human rights, and Haiti’s recovery efforts post-earthquake and hurricane. Through these sustained endeavors, we strive to strengthen the foundations of stability, inclusivity, and growth throughout the Americas. 

 Madam Chair, environmental rights also hold high importance for the United States, and we recognize the intricate link between a healthy environment and human rights.  

 As a nation, we remain committed to our domestic and international efforts to combat the climate crisis by accelerating emission reductions in this critical decade and strengthening adaptation efforts. It is imperative we raise global ambition to keep 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach, particularly from other major emitters whose nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement are not yet aligned with an emissions trajectory consistent with 1.5 degrees.   

 Our dedication to the conservation of biodiversity, our ambitious climate goals, and our active participation in addressing plastic pollution reflect our effort to advance environmental justice for all, particularly for the most vulnerable communities. 

 While a right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment has not yet been established as a matter of customary international law and treaty law does not provide for such universal right, the United States remains open to working with other UN and OAS member states and the IACHR to cultivate a deeper understanding in this area.  

 To this end, we underscore the role of strong domestic environmental laws and policies in achieving a healthy environment, since the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements varies widely based on individual states’ participation. 

 Let me close by underscoring my government’s support of the aims set out in the Protocol of San Salvador and the work of the IACHR Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights.   

 These aims are strongly reflected in our robust domestic legislation such as The Clean Water Act — as well as through President Biden’s executive orders on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government and Revitalizing Our Nation’s Commitment to Environmental Justice for All, our Justice40 Initiative, and the establishment of White House-level environmental justice councils.    

As we engage in today’s discussion, Madam Chair, we hope that a collective effort on the part of the OAS will help spur further hemispheric action to address our peoples’ social and economic needs, and advance respect for the human rights of individuals across the Americas affected by environmental challenges. 

 Thank you very much.