Remarks from Ambassador Susan Rice at UNA-USA 2011 Annual Meeting
Ambassador Susan Rice speaks to the United Nations Association USA, Annual Meeting June 13, 2011
Susan E. Rice, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, swept into a Hilton hotel Grand Ballroom one recent morning to speak to a gathering of UNA-USA members from across the country about the work before them — defending the world body to others in the U.S. and, in particular, Congress.
That is no small task, given the challenges, which range from UN reform to the Palestinian request for statehood to possible decreased financing from the U.S. to the UN. Nevertheless, Rice, who appeared on June 13 at UNA’s annual meeting, said she was counting on UNA’s nationwide membership of about 12,000 individuals to help reinforce the UN’s role as world peacemaker and to help make the UN more productive.
"The United Nations really has no better friends than UNA and UNF joined together in a strategic partnership," Rice said at the event, which was held in Arlington, Va. She was introduced by Timothy E. Wirth, President of the UN Foundation, who said that Rice has brought "tremendous energy and focus" to the U.S.-UN relationship.
The recent UNA-UN Foundation partnership, Rice added, "means new synergy and energy" to galvanize the large majority of Americans who support the important work of the UN.
"Together, I know you’ll push even harder on your core priorities — including the fight against measles, the Nothing But Nets campaign to stop malaria, promoting innovative ways to use mobile technology to advance development and helping empower and connect girls around the world through the tremendous Girl Up campaign."
Quickly, she delved into some of the biggest matters pressing against the UN: the Arab Spring revolts; the "fragile new nation" of South Sudan; fledgling democracies in Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti, Egypt and Tunisia; and the institution breaking out of "old habits" to find "new answers" to 21st Century issues.
"Now more than ever, Americans’ security and well-being are inextricably linked to those of people everywhere," Rice continued. "Now more than ever, we need common responses to global problems. And that is why the U.S. is so much better off — so much stronger, so much safer and more secure — in a world with the United Nations than we would be in a world without it."
She also reminded the audience how much work the UN is already doing to keep order: democracy activities in Afghanistan and Iraq; halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons; providing food, shelter and medicine through humanitarian agencies; combating poverty; and advancing universal human rights while condemning "the world’s worst indignities."
"You all get that," she went on, "but not everybody else does." UNA members, she reiterated, need to make clear to others the "tremendous value" that the UN offers American taxpayers.
The UN, for example, "has repaired frayed relations with countries around the world," she said; it also helped push the Security Council to impose tough sanctions on Iran and North Korea; it helped prevent massacres in Benghazi through the passing of Security Council Resolution 1973; and in the General Assembly, it helped win protections for gay rights and the creation of UN Women.
On the home front, working with Congress, the U.S. administration has "cleared hundreds of millions" of dollars in arrears to the UN and continues to try to stay current with U.S. payments.
But major challenges remain: addressing the calls by some in Congress for the U.S. to once again withhold payment of legally mandated dues; tackling longstanding flaws in the UN system; and encouraging wider UN reform to enable the UN to "do more with less."
"You are valued partners in this work," she said. "So please keep at it — help us to distinguish fact and fiction about the UN, help us to counter distortions and misinformation, help us to generate big ideas, from management reform to energy and to development."