"Sexual violence in our international community is not just a health concern, not just a social issue, and not just a criminal justice issue. It is an attack against human dignity that undermines transitioning states. As the driving force for self-preservation, human dignity is rooted in the right to live a life free from violence or the threat of violence. Syrians and Libyans have the opportunity to re-build their nations—and they must—but this starts by protecting each of their citizens—men, women, boys, and girls—from fear and from harm."
TUESDAY, SEP 18, 2012 | 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs,
U.S. State Department
with introductory remarks by
Daniel F. Runde,
Director of the Project on Prosperity and Development and Schreyer Chair in Global Analysis,
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Since the founding of the United Nations in the wake of World War II, American Administrations have employed that body’s General Assembly to introduce and strengthen the discourse around new policy ideas and address burning issues. Notable announcements in the past include President Obama’s seminal Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development at the 2010 meeting, which set the agenda for his administration’s development policy priorities.
A large number of global challenges may be on the agenda for this year, including Syria, Iran, food security, and the Horn of Africa. Please join us for remarks by Esther Brimmer, who will outline the priorities and agenda of this year’s UN General Assembly, which will convene on September 18, 2012.
More than 42 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes and communities. More than a million fled their countries in the last eighteen months alone due to a wave of conflicts, in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Sudan and Syria. These numbers represent far more than statistics; they are individuals and families whose lives have been upended, whose communities have been destroyed, and whose future remains uncertain.
World Refugee Day is a moment to remember all those affected, and a time to intensify our support."
"As we have consistently noted, Resolution 1970 and its referral of the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court represented an historic milestone in the fight against impunity. The Security Council’s unanimous decision to refer the situation underscores the importance of the role of justice and accountability in the resolution of conflicts and the maintenance of international peace and security. The referral has served to keep accountability and rule of law as key elements of Libya’s transition to a peaceful and democratic future."
Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for coming. What I’d like to do is, as Mark said, go through the program of work, tell you a bit about what we plan for the month, make a few comments on Mali—which we discussed this morning in the Council and which I otherwise would have briefed you on but was briefing the non-members of the Council just now and then coming to see you here, so I thought we could kill two birds with one stone— and then, of course, take your questions, all before joining the Secretary-General at lunch with women PRs and senior women in the secretariat.
Let me go through the program of work as swiftly as I can. I hope you all have the latest version in front of you. I want to just highlight various agenda items without necessarily going through it in chronological order. Let me begin with the subject of the 19th of April, which is a session on nuclear nonproliferation, disarmament, and security. From the U.S. point of view, the greatest danger that we and all states around the world face is a nuclear weapon in—or nuclear material falling into—the hands of terrorists.
As you know, at the beginning of his Administration, President Obama put nuclear security and nonproliferation at the very center of our foreign policy agenda and set out concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons in his Prague speech three years ago this month. A crucial part of this effort was the adoption, as you will recall, of Resolution 1887 during the Security Council’s historic, summit-level event in September 2009, chaired by President Obama when we were first in the presidency of the Security Council. Resolution 1887 recognized the need for all states “to take effective measures to prevent nuclear material or technical assistance becoming available to terrorists.”
With the conclusion of the second Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul last month, it’s appropriate, we think, to take stock of international efforts on this issue. And so the goal of the upcoming Council session is to highlight global efforts to combat the threat of nuclear proliferation and terrorism and to underscore the international community’s broadly shared interests and responsibilities to respond to these threats. It’s also an important opportunity to reinforce the Council’s support of the work of the IAEA as well as the importance of each UN member-state implementing Resolution 1540 to prevent proliferation of WMD and related materials.
I also want to point to the event on the week—the day—of April 25th, the following week, in which there will be an open debate on the illicit flow of materials, goods, and people. The title of the event is Threats to Peace – International Peace and Security: Securing Borders Against Illicit Flows. And the Security Council has consistently identified, through its resolutions and presidential statements, how such transfers—whether we’re talking about WMD, small arms, drugs, terrorists, even human trafficking—can fuel some of the most critical threats to international peace and security and trigger instability; that these threats, these flows, we often look at in a sort of stovepipe fashion—each individual threat—and we have instruments, both in the secretariat and in some of the specialized agencies, that are designed to assist states that need assistance and want assistance to build their capacity to deal with each of these threats, whether it’s drug flows or terrorism or what have you.
And we have the CTED, we have the 1540 Committee, we have sanctions panels of experts, we have UNODC—all essentially trying to assist states to build their capacity to deal with the same essential problem. Whether—whatever the good or person that is being transferred across borders, it is in fact securing borders. It’s building the capacity of states to control what’s coming in and out of their sovereign territory. And so we wanted to look at this issue from a more holistic point of view and to see these efforts, these mechanisms, and these challenges as part of a larger whole.
And while there are substantial bilateral, regional, and multilateral efforts under way to help states develop effective customs and immigration systems or to foster enforcement and intelligence cooperation, the Security Council has never undertaken a comprehensive effort to consider how the UN structures can most effectively support states in addressing illicit trafficking.
So this session will provide the Council with an opportunity to hear from the Secretary-General, who will also brief on the 19th on nonproliferation and nuclear security, and we’ll hear about the structures that the UN has to help states accomplish better control of their borders. And we’ll consider in a PRST asking the secretariat to provide us with a better understanding of what the current structures are and how they might be strengthened and streamlined to better support member-states.
Let me turn to some other items on the agenda. Throughout the month, we’ll have at least a couple of sessions on the situation in Sudan and South Sudan, which, as you know, remain high on the Council’s agenda. On the 11th, the Council will get a briefing—which may shift potentially, but we’ll see—by the head of mission and force command of UNISFA on the situation in Abyei. On the 26th, we’ll hear from Under-Secretary-General Ladsous on Darfur, and we will remain ready as a Council throughout the month to address the situation between Sudan and South Sudan, which, as you know, is quite fragile and volatile at the moment, as needed.
With respect to Syria, obviously that remains an important perennial on our agenda. We had the briefing yesterday by Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan. We heard that the regime has apparently committed to begin and to complete by April 10th the cessation of all forward deployments, the use of heavy weapons, and to withdraw its forces from populated areas.
The Security Council is now working on a draft presidential statement, which we introduced this morning as a presidential text—it will be negotiated today and probably tomorrow—which is essentially aimed at trying to give support—further support—to Joint Special Envoy Annan’s initiatives and to underscore the central importance of the Syrian Government adhering to its commitment to halt all offensive actions by April 10th. And I’m sure we can return to that in question-and-answer.
But let me say that from the U.S. point of view—and I think the point of view of many member-states – what we have seen since April 1stis not encouraging and that, should the Government of Syria use this window rather than to de-escalate to intensify the violence, it will be most unfortunate, and it will be certainly our view that the Security Council will need to respond to that failure in a very urgent and serious way. We will be talking with Joint Special Envoy Annan about the potential to have him return to brief the Council soon after April 10th so we can have an update and proceed accordingly.
Quickly, let me also mention that on the 24th we have a session on women, peace, and security, where UN Women head Michelle Bachelet will brief the Council—so her semi-annual briefing—and she’ll be joined by Under-Secretary-General Ladsous. We are eager for the opportunity to do this, given, as you know, that President Obama has launched a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security and has built a foundation for powerful change in the way that the world prevents war and makes peace, bringing the role of women to the front and center of that.
Let me turn to one other point, and that relates to young people. We think—the United States thinks—that it’s very important for the Council to bring the voices of half the world’s population, those under 25, more directly and immediately into the work of the Security Council. It’s the lives of young people that are being shaped by what we do or don’t do every day, and in so many ways, they have the greatest stake in the work we do. That’s why 15 months ago, when the U.S. last held the presidency of the Security Council, we organized what was an unusual, even unprecedented, opportunity for young people to participate in a discussion with members of the Security Council on what they viewed—these are young people from around the world—what they viewed as the most pressing issues facing the world and indeed the Council today.
This time around, we want to return to the theme of youth and do it in a somewhat different way. So I hope over the course of the month, you’ll be seeing a few younger faces around the halls, including in the Council itself. We’ll be partnering with high schools, universities, and NGOs to invite younger people, young audiences, to come to open sessions of the Security Council. We’ll be organizing a special program for young journalists that I hope will be of particular interest to you. We’ll be inviting them to come to the UN to report on what we believe is an issue of critical importance to young people and their generation, which is, of course, the issue of proliferation of nuclear materials and nuclear weapons technology. We’re going to draw young people from area schools but also from several Council member-states who will able to participate via video.
We will—hope that you will take some time to join us in engaging with these young journalists, encouraging them while they’re here, and if they happen to break a story ahead of you, that you don’t let professional jealousy get in the way of bringing up the next generation.
Finally, as we close, I will take, at the end of our press conference, one question that has been selected among many that were submitted via Twitter, and the question comes from a handle entitled @freeppl. And the question I’ll answer at the end is: Why are you not acting swiftly towards the killing in Syria like you did in Libya? But I’ll come back to that at the end.
Let me say a few quick points on Mali and then open it up for questions. This is the readout of our session this morning. We heard a briefing from Under-Secretary-General Pascoe on the situation in Mali. Mr. Pascoe told the Council that the situation has taken a turn for the worse over the course of the past several days. The MNLA and Ansar al-Din groups have capitalized on the confusion caused by the military seizure of power in Bamako and key towns, including in Timbuktu, and these towns in the north have fallen to the rebels. And Pascoe reported that government forces are effectively abandoning their positions in the north without much of a fight.
The Council is working on a PRST on this topic as well, which we hope will be issued as soon as possible. We heard from Under-Secretary-General Pascoe that ECOWAS, as you well know, has imposed measures as of yesterday including border closures, blocking access to financial accounts of junta members, and a travel ban, among other steps. And he also reported that ECOWAS has placed a force of some 3,000 troops on standby, both to respond, if necessary, to the coup d’etat as well as to respond to the rebellion that is of grave concern in the north. Pascoe also noted that the humanitarian situation is deteriorating and underlined that IDPs have increased to 90,000 and refugees to 130,000.
Council members were united in their demand that the junta leaders immediately step down and restore constitutional order.
Let me stop there and take your questions. Mark.
Chairwoman Granger, Representative Lowey, members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today. I am deeply grateful for your leadership and continued support for our efforts at the United Nations, especially in this time of fiscal constraint.
On behalf of the Administration, I am pleased to reiterate the request for funds for fiscal year 2013 for three key accounts: $1.57 billion for Contributions to International Organizations (CIO); $2.1 billion for Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA); and $327.3 million for International Organizations and Programs (IO&P). This request includes funding to meet our obligations to international organizations of which the United States is a member as well as our voluntary contributions to various United Nations programs.
Reflecting the fiscal environment, this year’s budget requests for voluntary contributions to major UN agencies largely remain constant and, in most cases have decreased, compared to last year’s request. On the whole, our FY13 request for the IO&P account reflects a 6% decrease from FY12 levels.
Let me start by underscoring the importance of the United Nations to advancing U.S. interests and upholding the universal values we hold dear.
The world is shrinking. Problems in remote parts of the globe can and do threaten our security interests abroad and ultimately affect us here at home. Nuclear proliferation, terrorism, drug trafficking, refugee flows, gross human rights abuses, manmade and natural disasters, infectious disease, extreme poverty and suffering, environmental degradation - problems that no one nation, no matter how powerful, can address alone. And especially in tough economic times, these are not burdens that the United States should have to bear on our own.
As both Democratic and Republican leaders have long attested, a strong and effective UN is one of the best tools we have to tackle many of the world’s problems. The UN plays an indispensable role in building international coalitions and promoting global burden sharing to meet 21st century challenges. The UN is not the sum of our strategy, but an essential piece of it.
As President Obama has said, “That’s how the international community should work — more nations; the United States right there at the center of it, but not alone — everybody stepping up, bearing their responsibilities, carrying the costs of upholding peace and security. That’s what it means to be United Nations.” And as former President Reagan proclaimed, “We are determined that the United Nations shall succeed and serve the cause of peace for humankind.”
Now, the UN is far from perfect, but when it stumbles, it’s often because its members stumble – because big powers block critical actions in the Security Council or spoilers grandstand in the General Assembly. As one of my predecessors, Richard Holbrooke, was fond of saying, “Blaming the UN when things go wrong is like blaming Madison Square Garden when the Knicks play badly.”
In response to the ongoing horrors in Syria, the United States and our partners have engaged in intensive diplomacy at the United Nations to put the world on record in support of an immediate halt to the violence; a negotiated, peaceful solution; and a responsible democratic transition. While Russia and China twice vetoed Security Council action, the United Nations General Assembly and Human Rights Council have repeatedly condemned the carnage the Asad regime is inflicting on its own people and endorsed the Arab League’s proposal for a transition. The Human Rights Council has mandated a Commission of Inquiry that has thoroughly investigated and documented the human rights abuses of the Asad regime. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and senior UN officials have vigorously condemned abuses by the Syrian regime and called for an end to the violence. The United Nations and the Arab League have jointly appointed former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as their Special Envoy for Syria. The UN has coordinated the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance to afflicted Syrian communities and has provided support to thousands of Syrian refugees and vulnerable populations inside Syria tormented by the regime’s systematic abuses, though the need remains great.
The regime continues to renege on its commitment to implement the League of Arab States’ action plan agreed to in November. It has spurned efforts by its Arab neighbors to mediate a peaceful political solution. It continues to wage a brutal campaign against innocent civilians and there are credible allegations that the regime has committed crimes against humanity.
The United States fully supports the Syrian people’s demands for a unified Syria with a democratic, representative, and inclusive government that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms, and we fully support the Arab League’s unprecedented initiatives to end this crisis peacefully. In order to provide lifesaving assistance to Syrian civilians in need, we have announced a $12 million initial contribution to scale up humanitarian efforts. To deepen the Asad regime’s isolation, we have imposed sanctions and worked with others to do so as well, such as placing travel bans on senior members of the regime, freezing their assets, boycotting Syrian oil, and considering closing embassies and consulates. And we have encouraged a democratic transition by supporting opposition groups and individuals inside and outside Syria to come together around a common vision for the country’s future where the rights of every citizen are respected and protected.
In Syria, as elsewhere, the United States has led efforts to promote principled action at the UN through persistent diplomacy with our traditional allies, regional partners, and emerging powers. Indeed, this has been the hallmark of the Obama Administration’s engagement at the UN. We work hard to build and sustain the coalitions required to advance our interests and values. And we fulfill our obligations, so that our hand is that much stronger when we demand that others do the same. Our investments at the United Nations have advanced U.S. interests and made the American people more safe and secure.
In Libya, the United States and its allies acted through the United Nations to prevent Qadafhi from massacring his own people. And now the UN is remaining engaged over the long term, helping the people of Libya make the difficult transition to democracy after a brutal dictatorship.
To curtail illicit nuclear weapons programs, the United States led the Security Council in imposing the toughest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea. As a result, a large number of countries have also imposed additional bilateral sanctions on Iran, and the regime is more isolated than ever before with its leaders facing crippling sanctions. As the President has repeatedly made clear, we will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and as long as Iran fails to meet its international obligations, the pressure will build.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the United Nations is providing vital assistance to their political transitions, and to their social and economic development – supporting the process of bringing our service members home responsibly.
After decades of brutal war, the United Nations played a critical role in supporting the creation of the newly independent South Sudan. There are significant challenges ahead in Darfur, Abyei, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, so the United States will continue our efforts to support Sudan and South Sudan living side by side in peace.
In Cote d’Ivoire, the UN stood firm in stopping a strongman from stealing an election and ensured that the democratically elected President took office, preventing a return to civil war.
In Haiti, the United Nations has been essential in helping the country recover and rebuild from the devastating earthquake two years ago – a tragedy that claimed thousands of lives, including one hundred and two UN personnel. The United States worked closely with the UN to help the Government of Haiti ensure security and deliver humanitarian relief. Tens of thousands of U.S. forces were able to withdraw from Haiti within a few months as the UN peacekeeping presence was quickly reconstituted.
During last year’s General Assembly, we secured, by the largest margins ever, condemnations of Iran and North Korea – and for the first time ever, Syria – for their mass violations of human rights. In the Human Rights Council, the United States worked to achieve ground-breaking resolutions on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, discrimination against women, religious tolerance, and investigations into human rights abuses in Syria, Sudan, North Korea, Libya, and Iran.
We have led the fight for women’s rights, forging a broad coalition to establish UN Women, a streamlined entity that replaced multiple UN offices, and that now works to empower women worldwide. We also support the vital work of a Special Representative to tackle the issue of sexual violence in conflict.
We’ve spearheaded important progress throughout the UN system to advance the universal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, including landmark victories in the General Assembly and Human Rights Council, and our advocacy on behalf of LGBT non-governmental organizations.
These are just a few examples of how United States leadership at the United Nations is yielding tangible dividends for the American people.
But despite important progress, much remains to be done. UN reform is not a luxury. It is a necessity. That is why we are relentlessly championing greater budget discipline and comprehensive administrative and management reforms that will make the UN more efficient and cost-effective.
In December, we led a successful effort to cut by five percent the size of the UN’s regular budget, the first reduction in 14 years and only the second in the past 50 years.
In addition, by responsibly shutting down peacekeeping missions and showing discipline in establishing new missions, we have contained the growth in recent years of the UN peacekeeping budget, which increased from $2.6 billion to $7.8 billion from 2000 to 2009. The Obama Administration has succeeded in holding peacekeeping budget levels effectively constant for the past three years.
We have also promoted a paperless UN, resulting in a 65% reduction of pages printed in New York over the past two years, saving on an annual basis a pile of paper nearly 50 times the height of the UN building.
To better tackle waste, fraud, and abuse, we have worked to reduce vacancies in the UN inspector-general’s office by nearly half so it can be a strong, independent, and effective watchdog.
Over the past decade, the United States has championed increased transparency throughout the UN system. And last year, we secured a commitment from the heads of all NY-based UN funds and programs to disclose publicly online all internal audit reports, starting this year.
We led efforts in the General Assembly to adopt wide-ranging peacekeeping reforms –including a new global field support strategy - which have already saved an initial $62 million to date and will dramatically improve the performance of 15 peace operations worldwide employing approximately 120,000 military, police, and civilian peacekeepers.
Our UN reform agenda is based on four key pillars:
First, economy: a leaner UN that does more with less. We are working hard to shrink the bureaucracy, bring some private-sector sensibility to the UN, and upgrade the UN’s information technology.
Second, accountability: a cleaner UN with robust oversight mechanisms, ethics enforcement, whistleblower protection, and greater transparency.
Third, integrity: a more credible UN that lives up to its founding principles and values, and does not tolerate individuals or states that bring dishonor to the institution.
Fourth, excellence: an insistence on delivering real results and upholding the highest standards, including a merit-based human resource system that rewards performance, the capacity to respond in real time to unfolding crises, integration of disparate UN programs, and a culture of evaluation for effectiveness.
We have a good partner in Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has been a leader on these issues, and look forward to working with him and his team in the coming months and years.
There are many challenges ahead – upcoming negotiations on member state assessment rates, divisive politics within the General Assembly, an entrenched bureaucracy that resists change – but with patience and determined engagement, we will continue to succeed.
This brings me to another important priority: ensuring that Israel’s legitimacy is beyond dispute and its security is never in doubt.
Every day, we stand with Israel and oppose hostile efforts to challenge Israel’s legitimacy and security at the UN. We remain vigilant on the Palestinians’ unilateral bid for UN membership. The United States will not hesitate to use its veto when necessary. However, due to our efforts, the Palestinians saw clearly that they had not mustered enough votes to gain the UN Security Council’s support and thus to provoke a U.S. veto. There is no shortcut to statehood. Tough issues can only be solved through direct negotiations between the parties. We have been consistent and clear on this.
When a Security Council resolution on settlements that would have undermined the cause of peace was put to a vote, we vetoed it. Likewise, when the deeply flawed Goldstone Report was released, we insisted on Israel’s right to defend itself and maintained that Israel’s democratic institutions could credibly investigate any possible abuses. We refused to attend meetings in 2009 and 2011 concerning the 2001 Durban Conference, which unfairly singled out Israel. And we always fight against anti-Israel resolutions in the General Assembly, Human Rights Council, UNESCO, and other UN bodies.
We are also fighting for the full and equal participation of Israel throughout the UN system. We championed Israel’s successful bid for the UNDP Executive Board last year and when they took their seat last month, it was hailed by the Israeli Deputy Ambassador as “a milestone in Israel’s integration to the global agenda of the UN.” We have succeeded in winning Israel’s inclusion in key negotiation groups in New York and in Geneva, and are pushing for Israel’s participation where it remains excluded. At the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the disproportionate and biased focus on Israel undermines the credibility and effectiveness of the Council, and we consistently oppose the permanent agenda item devoted to Israel. As President Obama has said, “It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will continue to be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.”
Madam Chairwoman, members of the Committee, allow me to draw your attention to one specific matter of great importance – longstanding legislative restrictions on paying our assessed contributions to UN specialized agencies that admit Palestine as a member state. Our participation in these organizations serves a wide range of important American interests, such as promoting human rights, democracy, nonproliferation, global health, international telecommunications, intellectual property rights, and free markets. Withholding U.S. funding only harms U.S. interests.
The World Health Organization assists countries in addressing critical health problems and helps protect Americans from infectious diseases, such as the H1N1 and avian influenza. WHO programs have led to the eradication of smallpox, which saves America millions by eliminating the need for vaccinations, and are working towards the eradication of polio, neonatal tetanus, leprosy, and other preventable illnesses.
The International Atomic Energy Agency protects Americans from the dangers of nuclear proliferation through its essential verification work ensuring that peaceful nuclear programs are not being diverted for weapons purposes. IAEA inspectors have been instrumental in blowing the whistle on illicit activities by Iran and North Korea.
The World Intellectual Property Organization supports American economic growth through the protection of patents and copyrights, and provides a forum for American businesses to raise complaints about the infringement of intellectual property. Last year, American companies, such as Apple, Costco, and Facebook, brought cases before WIPO.
Current U.S. law runs counter to U.S. national security interests by enabling the Palestinians to determine whether the U.S. can continue to fund and lead effectively in key UN specialized agencies that help protect Americans. Cutting off funding for agencies such as WHO, IAEA, and WIPO would deal a blow to our efforts on global health, nuclear nonproliferation, and the protection of the interests of American businesses.
In the case of UNESCO, due to irresponsible Palestinian actions, we have withheld our funding for valuable work that supports key U.S. interests. UNESCO’s contributions include promoting freedom of the press and freedom of expression, providing literacy training and supporting tsunami warning systems. The United States has been a leading supporter and financial contributor to UNESCO’s valuable Holocaust education program, second only to Israel. We have also supported UNESCO’s efforts to empower women and girls through education. As former First Lady and UNESCO honorary Ambassador to the UN literacy decade Laura Bush has argued, “achieving the goal of global literacy requires global participation. It requires continued global leadership at every level – from international organizations like UNESCO to political leadership in each nation.”
We believe our membership and participation in UNESCO is valuable and worth supporting. Therefore, the Administration’s budget request includes funding for the U.S. contribution to UNESCO and a statement of intent to work together with Congress to find a solution that would give the Administration the authority to waive restrictions on paying our financial contributions when doing so is clearly in our national interest.
I also remain concerned about pending legislation that would shift contributions to the UN from assessed to voluntary funding. Treating our commitments and treaty obligations to the UN as an a la carte menu invites others to do the same and, simply put, would leave us paying more of the bill. Similarly, we oppose legislation that would link efforts to reform the UN to withholding dues. Historically, such approaches have backfired by allowing opponents of reform to weaken our ability to prevail in negotiations.
I also respectfully request the Committee provide the authority proposed to pay our assessed peacekeeping dues at the current rate of 27.14 percent.
As we learned in the 1980’s and 1990’s, when the United States is unable to pay our bills, we undermine our leadership at the UN, especially on UN reform. In 2009, the Obama Administration worked with Congress to pay off millions in arrears that accumulated between 2005 and 2008. Being up to date with our commitments has helped us deliver some of the most significant accomplishments on UN reform for American taxpayers in more than a decade. The failure to pay our assessments undermines our credibility and our influence. We alienate our closest allies and partners when we don’t follow through on the policies we together advocate in the Security Council, on priorities such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma, Libya, Haiti, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Neglecting our commitments leaves us in a position of weakness, not strength, when it comes to championing reforms and achieving the concrete results that make America safer and stronger. Paying our assessments has been the consistent policy of both Republican and Democratic Administrations. Of course, paying our bills in full and on time does not mean giving the UN a free pass. On the contrary, it allows us to pursue reform even more aggressively and successfully.
I will conclude by saying the United States is at the forefront ensuring that the UN lives up to its founding principles, safeguards international security, and delivers assistance to those who need it most. We greatly appreciate the Committee’s longstanding efforts to help meet our commitments throughout the UN system, especially at a time of fiscal belt-tightening. The active and full support of this Committee has been and remains essential to our efforts.
It is an honor to represent the United States at the United Nations. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with wonderful colleagues at the U.S. Mission, the UN, the broader diplomatic community, and the Members of this Congress who share a deep commitment to protecting the innocent, pursuing peace, and defending universal human rights.
I welcome your questions.
U.S. Delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council (March 16, 2012):
The adoption of a final group of country reports at the Human Rights Council today marks the completion of the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). As of today, every United Nations member state, without exception, has come to Geneva to answer questions on their human rights record, and the Council has adopted a report summarizing each of those proceedings.
Created when the Human Rights Council came into existence in 2006, the UPR is a significant tool for the protection and promotion of human rights. The UPR requires every country in the world to participate in an open dialogue with other UN member states and with civil society on its human rights record.
During the two and a half year cycle that has just concluded, many abusive governments including both the Qadafi and Assad regimes, shamelessly presented fictional accounts of the state of human rights in their countries. These UPR sessions also included forceful criticisms from participating states who spoke the truth in response. The final reports adopted this week by the Human Rights Council document both sides of this exchange, spotlighting who chose to speak out honestly and strongly in defense of human rights, and who did not. Adoption of a UPR report by the Council merely signifies that it has been entered for the record. It in no way constitutes endorsement by the Human Rights Council of any statements in that report.
For Libya, this final UPR session marked the closing of a door on the Qaddafi regime and the opening of a dialogue on human rights with the international community. During the UPR process at this session, the Libyan government accepted many recommendations that were rejected by the Qadafi regime. Most importantly, the adoption of Libya’s UPR records the transitional government’s vocal commitment to improving the human rights situation in Libya.
Thank you, Madame Chair. It is a great pleasure to join you today at the Commission on the Status of Women to speak about why the empowerment of rural women is vital to global development.
Growing evidence shows that investing in women is not only the right thing to do - it is the smart thing to do.
As Secretary Clinton has said, “To achieve the economic expansion we all seek, we need to unlock a vital source of growth that can power our economies in the decades to come. And that vital source of growth is women.” In rural economies - on which 70 percent of the world’s poor depend - women have a unique potential not only to help drive economic growth but also to help solve the crucial development challenges of our time, from food security to sustainable energy to global health. It is for this reason that the United States champions the advancement of rural women across a wide range of policies in key areas.
Take food security. Women are a sizable part of the world’s agricultural workforce, and are the outright majority in dozens of countries. They manage this in addition to caring for children and families, preparing meals and managing households, procuring water and firewood, and often also laboring in small-scale trading and enterprise.
Yet many rural women lack access to the capital, property, education and physical security that are essential to unlocking their potential. Women receive fewer and smaller loans than men do, and lack equal access to seeds, tools, and fertilizer. Closing the gender gap in agriculture would generate significant gains. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, providing women equal access to productive resources could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent and reduce the number of hungry by 100 to 150 million people worldwide.
That is why women are central to the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future. In Kenya, we are tailoring agriculture extension services to fit women’s schedules and training women in leadership and business development. In Uganda, we are working with partners to implement a women-led “community connector” program that addresses nutrition, sanitation, and agriculture in an integrated way. And we are piloting new tools to measure gender-specific results,including an innovative “Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index” that was launched yesterday here at the CSW.
Rural women also have significant potential to contribute to sustainable energy solutions. Nearly 3 billion people globally still rely on traditional cookstoves and open fires to prepare food. Smoke exposure from these traditional methods causes an estimated two million premature deaths annually, predominantly women and children. Cookstoves also emit black carbon and greenhouse gases. As we work to build a global market for clean cookstoves, we need to involve women at every step in order to increase adoption rates and generate new economic opportunities, such as local businesses for sales, distribution and repair. We also need to make women a high priority at Rio+20.
Women can drive global health outcomes, and unlocking the potential of rural women requires focusing on the health needs of women and girls. That is why a key priority of the Obama Administration’s Global Health Initiative (GHI) is the Women, Girls, and Gender Equality Principle, which aims to redress gender imbalances related to health. We know it can work: in countries with a long-term commitment to family planning and maternal and newborn health, we have seen maternal mortality drop 30 percent or more. That is also why United States is proud to co-sponsor this year’s resolution on maternal mortality - as we have done in prior years - with dozens of partners from every continent.
Finally, women and girls should be at the forefront of our common efforts to combat violence, abuse and discrimination, with special attention to lesbian and transgender women, ethnic minorities, and the displaced, who are among the most vulnerable.
When President Obama signed his landmark Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, the first of its kind by a U.S. administration, he elevated development as a core pillar of American foreign policy. He also called for new investment in women and girls as powerful forces for change in their economies and societies.
In my travels around the world, I seek out women to hear their views on the future, and I am always honored and humbled by their courage, ingenuity, and determination. A few months ago, I met with brave women in Libya. They spoke proudly of their role in the revolution and sought no less of a role in leading Libya into the future. Their experience, like so many others, shows us that we cannot leave half of any country’s rich human potential untapped.
Speaking before the UN General Assembly last fall, President Obama challenged UN member states to “announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. That is what our commitment to human progress demands.”This is why we are here today. This session is an opportunity for us to challenge ourselves to go still farther, for there is much work yet to be done.