The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Advancing U.S. Interests at the United Nations
The Obama Administration has dramatically changed our course at the United Nations. The President’s new era of engagement has led to concrete results at the UN that advance U.S. foreign policy objectives and American security. The dividends of U.S. leadership at the UN are tangible – the stiffest UN sanctions ever against Iran and North Korea, renewed momentum against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials, a coordinated global effort to help Haiti recover and rebuild, internationally agreed principles to address food insecurity, and direct U.S. participation to reform the flawed UN Human Rights Council. In a world facing so many complex transnational challenges, rebuilding a strong basis for international cooperation has allowed the U.S. to work collectively to solve problems at the United Nations, furthering core national security interests for the American people.
The President’s vision for a world without nuclear weapons includes a realistic path to achieve that goal. Several of the significant milestones to date on this important Administration priority have taken place at the UN.
UN Security Council Resolution 1887: In September 2009, the U.S. held the presidency of the UN Security Council and President Obama chaired the historic Council Summit on nonproliferation and disarmament. The capstone of the Summit was the unanimous passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1887. This U.S.-drafted resolution reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to the global nonproliferation regime based on the NPT, expressed the unified view that all countries enjoy rights and responsibilities under the NPT, and signaled particular concern that all countries need to comply with their obligations. Resolution 1887 also reinforced ongoing work based on UNSC Resolution 1540 to strengthen the nonproliferation regime.
- Iran: The United Nations Security Council voted overwhelmingly to sanction Iran for its continued failure to live up to its obligations. UNSCR 1929 puts in place the toughest sanctions ever faced by the Iranian government, and it sends an unmistakable message about the international community’s commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. The new sanctions impose restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, its ballistic missile program, and, for the first time, its conventional military. They put a new framework in place to stop Iranian smuggling, and crack down on Iranian banks and financial transactions. They target individuals, entities, and institutions -– including those associated with the Revolutionary Guard –- that have supported Iran’s nuclear program and prospered from illicit activities at the expense of the Iranian people. And the U.S. will ensure that these sanctions are vigorously enforced, just as we continue to refine and enforce our own sanctions on Iran alongside our friends and our allies.
- The strong resolution that passed in June benefited from wide international support. In voting for it, the U.S. was joined by nations from Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America -– including Russia and China. And these sanctions show the united view of the international community that a nuclear arms race in the Middle East is in nobody’s interest, and that nations must be held accountable for challenging the global non-proliferation regime.
- North Korea: In response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons test, the U.S. secured the unanimous adoption of Security Council Resolution 1874, which put in place a tough array of sanctions, including asset freezes, financial sanctions, a complete embargo on arms exports, and an unprecedented framework for the inspection of suspect vessels. Since the adoption of Resolution 1874, countries have intercepted and seized tons of contraband cargo, including a massive arms shipment uncovered by Thailand in December. These interdictions show that countries are taking seriously their obligations to enforce these tough new measures. The United States will continue to press on sanctions implementation until there is concrete, verifiable progress on denuclearization.
- NPT Review Conference: In May 2010, NPT parties adopted by consensus a Final Document that advances a realistic path towards achievement of the President’s vision for the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. This document includes calls for strengthened verification and compliance, recognizes the New START agreement and the need for deeper reductions of nuclear weapons, entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the immediate start of talks on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, and supports efforts to pursue international fuel banks and related mechanisms to broaden access to peaceful nuclear energy without creating new proliferation risks.
The Conference produced a clear outcome that strengthens all three pillars of the Treaty – nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. This major achievement is a vindication of the broad thrust of U.S. efforts to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons while pursuing the peace and security of a world without them. Everyone recognizes that the new approach the United States has brought to the table on nonproliferation energized this Conference and the effort to reach a consensus final document. The contrast between the atmospherics of this Conference and the one held five years ago is dramatic.
Bolstering Progress in Afghanistan and Iraq
- Afghanistan: Since 2009, the United States has pursued a new strategy in Afghanistan that, in addition to increased military efforts, placed much greater emphasis on the role of international civilian assistance. The U.S. has worked to ensure that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had the resources and political support to carry out its vital mission. The U.S. has also worked to strengthen all aspects of the UN presence in the country so that UNAMA can best complement efforts to support the Government of Afghanistan by the United States and the International Security Assistance Force and better coordinate donor support.
- Iraq: As the U.S. continues to reduce its footprint in Iraq, the UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) continues to play a critical role. The U.S. strongly supports the work of the UN Mission in Iraq as it continues to provide important technical assistance to the Government of Iraq, mediates longstanding internal boundary disputes, and assists displaced Iraqi citizens.
Strengthening UN Peacekeeping and Conflict Prevention Efforts
- Improving Peacekeeping Effectiveness: In September 2009, President Obama hosted the first-ever meeting with the leaders of the top troop-contributing nations to UN peacekeeping operations, underscoring America’s commitment to this vital tool, which allows countries around the world to share the burden for protecting civilians and fragile peace processes in societies emerging from war. The U.S. continues to advance initiatives to strengthen UN peacekeeping capabilities, including by seeking to expand the number, capacity, and effectiveness of troop and police contributors, helping secure General Assembly approval for vital peacekeeping reforms, and working with fellow Security Council members to craft more credible and achievable mandates for operations in Haiti, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and several other current operations.
- Haiti: After the devastating earthquake of January 2010, which claimed the lives of over 100 UN personnel and the UN stabilization mission’s leadership, the U.S. worked extremely closely with the UN to help the Government of Haiti ensure security and deliver vital humanitarian relief to the people of Haiti. Tens of thousands of U.S. forces were able to withdraw from Haiti within a few months, as countries from Latin America and around the world moved quickly to share the burden and augment the UN peacekeeping presence. At the end of March, the U.S. along with the UN, and other partners, hosted a major donors conference. The U.S. has pledged $1.1 billion for Haiti’s long term reconstruction needs.
Sudan: Following the indictment by the International Criminal Court of the President of Sudan and the retaliatory expulsion of humanitarian relief workers, the U.S. pressed for the return of the aid groups and opposed the deferral of the ICC arrest warrant. The U.S. has carefully supported the effective implementation of peacekeeping mandates in Southern Sudan and Darfur, and promoted improved cooperation between these two peacekeeping missions, in line with the Obama Administration’s comprehensive approach to Sudan. The U.S. continues to work closely with senior UN officials to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground, and ensure that the UN is prepared to support the upcoming referenda. President Obama will attend the high-level Sudan meeting hosted by United Nations Secretary General Ban during the General Assembly, to bring high-level attention and focus to actions that can support on-time referenda that reflect the will of the Sudanese people.
The U.S. strongly backs the work of the Sudan sanctions Committee and the Sudan Panel of Experts. The U.S. led negotiations on resolution 1891, renewing the mandate of the Experts and making the sanctions and the Committee more effective.
- Liberia: The U.S. built an international consensus to maintain a robust peacekeeping operation in Liberia through the 2011 elections by leading a Security Council delegation to Liberia and working to ensure unbroken support for the implementation of the peace process.
- Democratic Republic of the Congo: In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the U.S. championed improved protection of civilians, especially by demanding an end to the epidemic of rape and gender-based violence.
- Women, Peace and Security: The U.S., with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presiding, led the Security Council in adopting unanimously Resolution 1888 on Women, Peace, and Security, which condemns conflict-related sexual violence and calls on all parties to immediately end acts of rape and sexual violence during armed conflict. This initiative strengthens the international response to sexual violence in conflict by establishing a dedicated UN Special Representative, creating of a team of experts to investigate crimes and assist victims, and tracking data on sexual violence in UN reports.
- Somalia: The U.S. helped garner international support for the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), including by supporting UN funding to keep international peacekeepers in the country. The U.S. has been a strong supporter of recent efforts to augment the number of troops deployed in AMISOM, which now has a force of nearly 7,000. Since AMISOM’s deployment in 2007, the United States has obligated more than $185 million to provide logistics support, equipment, and pre-deployment training to its forces. The United States has been the largest single country donor of humanitarian assistance to Somalia, providing more than $150 million in humanitarian assistance in Fiscal Year 2009. Additionally, the U.S. spearheaded efforts to secure renewed UN authority for international forces to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia. These authorities allow countries to continue to pursue pirates on Somali soil as well as in Somali territorial waters.
- Eritrea: The U.S. supported the African Union’s call for sanctions on Eritrea, resulting in the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1907, which established an arms embargo and targeted sanctions on Eritrea for its continued role in destabilizing Somalia and the region and failure to comply with resolution 1862 on Djibouti.
- Sri Lanka: The U.S. focused international attention to the plight of civilians in the conflict zone in northern Sri Lanka and pressed for their release from the internally displaced persons camps after the conflict ended.
Promoting a New Era of Engagement and Reform
- Human Rights Council: The U.S. sought and secured election to the UN Human Rights Council. Though the Council is deeply flawed, the United States is now working to reform it from within so that it can speak up for those suffering under the world’s cruelest regimes, fight the Council’s excessive focus on Israel, and focus on major human rights abuses worldwide.
In the past year, the United States has spoken out on serious human rights abuses in Iran, Burma, Sudan, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Russia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. With active U.S. leadership, the council authorized international mandates to closely monitor and address the human rights situations in Burma, North Korea, Cambodia and Sudan. In June, the United States co-led a cross-regional effort with 55 other nations to criticize the deplorable human rights situation in Iran and to express solidarity with victims and human rights defenders on the anniversary of the contested Iranian election. We have also worked cooperatively with governments such as those of Haiti, Somalia and Kyrgyzstan as they experienced crisis and sought help from the council to strengthen their human rights capabilities and help their countries rebuild. And the U.S. partnered with the government of Afghanistan to build international support for efforts to prevent attacks on Afghan school children, especially girls, who seek to be educated. Along with our international partners and the NGO community, the United States has brought a new tone of constructive engagement to the council.
Human Rights: On behalf of the President, Ambassador Rice signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first new human rights treaty of the 21st century. Additionally, in a reversal of the previous Administration’s policy, USUN supported a landmark General Assembly declaration condemning human rights violations based on sexual orientation. USUN also provided leadership, working with our allies, to win decisive victories on General Assembly resolutions condemning human rights violations in North Korea, Burma, and Iran. Further, USUN spearheaded an effort that led to a decisive victory in the United Nations Economic and Social Council, which voted to grant consultative status to the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission (ILGHRC), a U.S.-based non-governmental organization that does invaluable work around the globe to protect basic human rights, combat discrimination, and fight against the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
UN Women: The U.S. was instrumental in the establishment of a new UN agency called UN Women. This vital new organization combines four separate UN offices into one stronger, streamlined and more efficient entity for women around the world. UN Women will work to elevate women’s issues within the UN system and on the international stage. The U.S. warmly welcomes the appointment of Michelle Bachelet, the former President of Chile, as the first head of UN Women.
- UN Arrears: Working with the U.S. Congress, the Administration was able to clear hundreds of millions in arrears to the United Nations, which accumulated between 2005 and 2008, and is now staying current with payments to the Organization.
- UN Reform: As the largest financial contributor to the UN, ensuring that U.S. funds are spent wisely and not wasted is vital. The U.S. has worked to contain the growth of the UN budget and consistently pressed the issue of efficiency and accountability in our discussions with the UN, pushing for a focus on results. In 2009, the Administration successfully negotiated an agreement that held constant the share of U.S. assessed contributions to the United Nations.
The U.S. advocated and supported adoption of key elements of an accountability framework for the UN and for the first time this year defined what accountability means for the UN Secretariat. The U.S. has held back attempts to curb the authority and operational independence of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and succeeded in March 2010 in preserving OIOS’ existing mandate and authority. The U.S. supports transparency and holding the UN accountable and thus will continue to make public OIOS audit reports.
The United States has consistently and aggressively supported OIOS to be a strong and independent watchdog so that U.S. taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and UN programs are managed effectively. And while OIOS has provided valuable recommendations to improve the UN’s effectiveness and served as a deterrent in the area of waste, fraud, and sexual exploitation and abuse, it has had shortcomings, especially in the area of investigations. The U.S. has pushed hard for improvements in that function so that OIOS can more vigorously pursue fraud and misconduct. In that vein, the U.S. successfully pushed for the quick nomination of a new head of OIOS, who we will work with to improve oversight.
The U.S. supported the appointment of Joan Dubinsky, an American, to head the UN ethics office. And the United States has worked closely with the UN Secretariat and Member States in the General Assembly to approve an agenda for sweeping reform of how the UN undertakes administrative and logistics support for UN field operations (the Global Field Support Strategy) to capture efficiencies within peacekeeping operations and improve the UN’s capacity to support complex field missions.