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Reforming the United Nations: The Future of U.S. Policy

Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, to the House Foreign Affairs Committee:

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
Washington, DC
April 7, 2011

Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to be here. Representative Berman, Members of this Committee, it’s an honor to have the chance to come before the Committee again today. I thank you Madame Chairman for including my full statement in the record.

I want to begin by expressing my gratitude for the many kind words of sympathy that have been expressed by many Members of the Committee regarding the recent losses that the United Nations has suffered in a number of countries of late. It has indeed been a very difficult period and your expressions of sympathy will be very appreciated.

I want to begin this morning by recalling the UN’s response to the crisis in Libya, which in my estimation, further reminds us of the value of the United Nations in an age of 21st-century challenges. With U.S. leadership, the Security Council swiftly authorized the use of force to save civilians at risk of mass slaughter, it established a no-fly zone, and imposed strong sanctions on the Qadhafi regime. With broad international support, we also suspended Libya from the UN Human Rights Council by consensus—a historic first.

As we well know, America’s resources and influence are by no means limitless, and that’s why the United Nations is so important to our national security. It allows us to share the costs and burdens of tackling global problems, rather than leaving these problems untended or leaving the world to look to the United States alone.

I therefore ask for this Committee’s support for the President’s budget request for the Contributions to International Organizations and to the CIPA accounts to help us advance U.S. national interests. Our leadership at the United Nations makes us more secure in at least five fundamental ways.

First, the UN prevents conflict and keeps nations from slipping back into war. More than 120,000 military, police, and civilian peacekeepers are now deployed in 14 operations worldwide, in places such as Haiti, Sudan, and Liberia. Just 98 of those individuals are Americans in uniform, all serving under U.S. command and control. UN missions in Iran* and Afghanistan are promoting stability so that American troops can come home faster. These are examples of burden-sharing at its best.

Second, the United Nations helps halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Over the past two years, the United States led efforts that imposed the toughest sanctions to date on Iran and North Korea.

Third, the United Nations helps isolate terrorists and human rights abusers by sanctioning individuals and companies associated with terrorism, atrocities, and cross-border crime.

Fourth, UN humanitarian and development agencies go where nobody else will to provide desperately needed assistance. UN agencies deliver food, water, and medicine to those who need it most, from Darfur to Pakistan, and many other places around the world.

Fifth, UN political efforts can help promote universal values that Americans hold dear, including human rights, democracy, and equality—whether it’s by spotlighting human rights abuses in Iran, North Korea, and Burma or offering critical support to interim governments in Egypt and Tunisia as they prepare for elections.

Let me turn now briefly to our efforts to reform the United Nations and improve its management practice. Our agenda focuses on seven priorities.

First, UN managers must enforce greater budget discipline. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as was noted, recently instructed senior managers to cut 3 percent from current budget levels—the first proposed reduction compared to the previous year of spending in ten years.

Second, we continue to demand a culture of transparency and accountability for resources and results. We aggressively promote a strengthened, independent Office of Internal Oversight Services and an improved ethics framework and enhanced protection for whistleblowers.

Third, we are pushing for a more mobile, meritocratic UN civilian workforce that incentivizes service in tough field assignments, rewards top performers, and removes dead wood.

Fourth, we are improving protection of civilians by combating sexual violence in conflict zones, demanding accountability for war crimes, and strengthening UN field missions.

Fifth, we are insisting on reasonable, achievable mandates for peacekeeping missions. Not a single new UN peacekeeping operation has been created in the last two years – not a single one - and in 2010, for the first time in six consecutive years, we closed missions and reduced the peacekeeping budget.

Sixth, we are working to restructure the UN’s administrative and logistical support systems for peacekeeping missions to make them more efficient, cost-effective, and responsive to realities in the field.

Finally, we are pressing the United Nations to finish overhauling the way it conducts day-to-day business, including upgrading its information-technology platforms, procurement practices, and accounting procedures.

But the UN, we all agree, must also do more to live up to its founding principles. We have taken the Human Rights Council in a better direction, including by creating a new Special Rapporteur on Iran. But much more needs to be done. The Council must deal with human rights emergencies wherever they occur, and its membership should reflect those who respect human rights, not those who abuse them.

We also continue to fight for fair and normal treatment everyday for Israel throughout the United Nations system. The tough issues between Israelis and Palestinians can be resolved only by direct negotiations between the parties, not in New York. That’s why the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution in February that risked hardening both sides’ positions. We consistently oppose anti-Israel resolutions in the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly, and wherever they may arise.

The UN, we all agree, is far from perfect. But it delivers real results for every American by advancing U.S. security through genuine burden-sharing. That burden-sharing is more important than ever at a time when the threats don’t stop at our borders, when Americans are hurting and cutting back, and when American troops remain in harm’s way.

Madame Chairman, thank you for your willingness to give me this opportunity. I am pleased now to answer the Committee’s questions.

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