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UN Week – 2/21/11

March 4, 2011

by John and Douglas Carey, editors, www.unweek.blogspot.com

Contents of this issue: UN Shoah observance; UN and regional organizations; US Ambassador Susan Rice responds on Twitter.

 UN Shoah observance.

           On February 10th, US Ambassador to the UN Rosemary DeCarlo declared that: “It is fitting that we are gathered at this institution, founded in a world devastated by conflict, whose founding values and Universal Declaration of Human Rights pledge to stand against the cruelty that led to the Shoah. We have a particular responsibility to remember the United Nations’ founding commitments.

          “In this Hall, we are all responsible for ensuring that the horrors of the Holocaust are remembered and that its lessons are passed from generation to generation. And we are all responsible for acting upon them.

 “My own country has placed the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum near our National Mall, building an institution dedicated to memory and action near the great gathering place that honors Lincoln and houses our Bill of Rights. President Obama has spoken at Buchenwald about our responsibility, quote, to ‘ensure that “never again” isn’t an empty slogan, or merely an aspiration, but also a call to action.’

 “Today, we remember the sorrows of the past. And today, we are called to ensure that they never happen again. We remember men who were dragged from their homes, walled into ghettoes, starved and beaten, and killed by firing squads and in factories of death.

“We remember children who were murdered for no other reason than having been born Jewish. And we remember women marked out for death who showed extraordinary courage and compassion during history’s cruelest hours.

 “We remember Hannah Szenes, a 23-year-old Hungarian poet, trained by the British Army as a parachuter. When she was captured by the Nazis, she refused a blindfold and stared at her executioners.

 “We remember Gisi Fleischmann of Slovakia, who bribed corrupt officials to save Jewish lives, refusing numerous opportunities to escape. She was murdered at Auschwitz in 1944.

“We remember Marianne Cohn, a young French woman who smuggled Jewish children to Switzerland. She was seized by a Nazi patrol with a group of 28 children in her care. She later had a chance to escape from prison but refused to abandon the children. She was murdered at the age of 20.

 “We remember those whose names we will never know. And we remember the bitter fates of these innocents, so we may always challenge ourselves to act. We must stand up to the demagogues, the preachers of division, and those who deny the plain facts of history.

“Together, let us join the imperative of memory with the courage and compassion to act. Together, let us remember all who suffered and perished in the Shoah. Together, let us never forget.”

UN and regional organizations.

           On February 8th, Ambassador De Carlo had spoken about the relationship between the UN and regional organizations. She noted that, “the European Union has become important partners for the Council in addres-sing matters of peace and security.  Together, we are applying more effect-tive solutions to the increasingly complex problems we face. 

“This morning, I would like to highlight a few areas of our effective cooperation: First, I would like to thank the European Union for its critical role in preventing and resolving conflict in the EU neighborhood, utilizing both civilian and military operations on the ground. One example is Operation Althea in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which the United States strongly supports. We welcome the EU’s intention to strengthen its civilian presence there to better promote reforms needed for Bosnian European integration. 

 “In Kosovo, the United States is a contributor to the EU’s Rule of Law mission and supports the High Representative’s initiative to facilitate dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo to resolve practical issues, improve lives, and help realize both countries’ European perspective. 

“We likewise support the ongoing efforts of the EU, UN and OSCE as chairs of the Geneva process for Georgia, including their respective roles in facilitating the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRMs), which is tackling ongoing difficult security and humanitarian issues on the ground. 

“Beyond Europe, we welcome the role played by the EU as a member of the Middle East Quartet. The United States is continuing to consult with both the Israelis and Palestinians, and is working with the Quartet and our partners in the region to achieve a framework agreement on all the core issues, ultimately resulting in a negotiated peace agreement. 

“Further, we commend the EU’s support of UN efforts in the Horn of Africa, where the EU is deploying naval forces through Operation Atalanta to combat piracy, and in Haiti and Sudan. The United States welcomes the Government of Sudan’s announcement that it accepts the Southern Sudan referendum results, and looks forward to continuing our work with the EU and the broader international community to ensure that the two states live alongside each other in peace.

          “We also note the EU’s support of a peaceful resolution to the politi-cal crisis in Cote d’Ivoire and the financial pressure it is putting on former President Gbagbo and his supporters to step aside in favor of democratically elected President Ouattara. * * *

“Second, we would like to point out the EU’s support for training and capacity building, in coordination with the UN and international partners.  Such efforts can serve as a multiplier for the peacekeeping and peacebuild-ing activities undertaken by regional organizations. We appreciate the EU’s initiative to share experience, through the EU-African Peace Facility, to build the African Union’s capacity for peace operations as well as the training the EU is providing for Somali government forces.

 “Within Afghanistan the EU, like the United States, works closely with the UN Assistance Mission.We commend the EU’s police training mission that has been operating in Afghanistan since 2007, in coordination with the NATO Training Mission and UNAMA. Especially important is its support for the construction of Afghan National Police Staff Colleges in Bamyan and Kabul in 2011. The EU’s civilian assistance and the efforts of the numerous individual EU member states with personnel on the ground in Afghanistan at Provincial Reconstruction Teams contribute to Afghanistan’s long-term security. 

 “Finally, I want to strongly applaud the European Union’s commit-ment to the protection of women in conflict situations and the promotion of their participation in peace building. The recent joint Africa-EU Strategy Action Plan underscores both organizations’ commitment to this important issue.”

 Ambassador Susan Rice responds on Twitter.

On February 10th Ambassador Rice visited Twitter Headquarters in San Francisco where she responded to questions:

“A good part of my job is explaining to the American people why it is the United Nations in the 21st century serves American interests. Some people have their doubts, and sometimes with good reason. But I’m out here on the west coast this week to talk about our stake in an effective United Nations and how it serves our national security, whether we are trying to defeat the proliferation of nuclear weapons by Iran or North Korea, whether we’re trying to share the burden of resolving conflict and halting genocide in places like Darfur or Congo or Haiti, or whether we are looking to share the burden of providing desperately needed humanitarian assistance or food aid or vaccine to prevent disease in parts of the world.

“All of these are functions that the United Nations, and sometimes the United Nations alone, performs. And we would be far worse off without their efforts and their services and without 191 other member-states to share with us the costs and the burdens of supporting  it.

So I’m looking very much forward to the opportunity to talk about the United Nations, about the world, about American foreign policy, which is also an important part of my job, on this very interesting and exciting day. * * *

 “The UN force in Darfur is known as UNAMID, and that was the acronym you were referring to. It’s a force of roughly 20,000 troops, mainly from Africa. It’s a joint African Union-UN peacekeeping force with a robust mandate to protect civilians. It was what we call a Chapter 7 mandate, meaning that legally they have the right to use force to carry out their mandate and defend themselves as peacekeepers.

“UNAMID has been long in getting up to full force strength. I visited Darfur most recently in October and spent time in some of the refugee camps and with UNAMID peacekeepers. And UNAMID is gradually not only getting up to full strength, but gradually implementing its mandate more robustly.

“But to tell you the truth, I’ve been frustrated because of the relative tentativeness of the peacekeepers on the ground in Darfur in terms of forcing their way through barriers that the government has put in their way to get to civilians who are in need or investigate violations of the ceasefire. UNAMID’s access and freedom of movement have regularly been restricted by the Government of Sudan, which is utterly unacceptable. And we have bitterly complained and pressured the government, as recently as yesterday, in the Security Council, to open up access, to halt attacks on civilians, to stop aerial bombardment, and enable UNAMID to do its job of protecting innocents.

“What has changed of late – under, frankly, a fair bit of American pressure – is that UNAMID is now no longer seeking permission to move from place to place, but announcing that it will be going from place to place and making its way there, even if they encounter hostility and resistance. It’s not perfect; they need to be more robust. But they’re making progress, and as a consequence, I am hopeful that they will be more effective in protecting civilians where they are most at risk. But it’s a work in progress. * * *

          “MODERATOR: So the next question is an absolutely horrible question. It’s from @MidAmericanGuy, and I completely disagree with the question. But hopefully you’re answering it can show why we all should disagree with the question. And the question is: Why doesn’t the U.S. just leave the UN? The UN is corrupt and anti-American. Our generosity and leadership are not appreciated.

 “AMBASSADOR RICE: What’s the guy’s name?

 “MODERATOR: It’s @MidAmericanGuy, Joe American.

 “AMBASSADOR RICE: @MidAmericanGuy. Okay. Well, I actually very much appreciate that question, because I think while the vast majority of Americans, 72 percent or more, believe that the United States ought to be active in the United Nations, ought to pay its bills in full and on-time, there are those who share the perspective that Joe America does, as expressed in his Tweet.

“And we need to step back and recall, first of all, it was the United States that was instrumental in forming the United Nations, as you all know, here in this city in 1945. And we did so for a reason: Because we recognized that we needed a venue in which the world’s problems could be aired, conflicts could be prevented, and where they couldn’t be prevented, there was some means to respond to them that could contain them and end them on a permanent basis.

 “Now, I’m the first to agree that the United Nations is far from perfect. There are isolated incidents of corruption and mismanagement. It is a large bureaucracy that could undoubtedly be further trimmed. But having said that, I am absolutely certain that you and I would be much worse off without it. Let me give a few examples. We’re concerned about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, and we are worried about Iran and North Korea’s programs in particular. We have basically three choices: We could ignore them, dangerous; we could go to war to prevent them, perhaps even more dangerous; or we could build international pressure, economic and political, to try to bring those parties to a reasonable negotiation to halt their nuclear weapons programs.

“Now, to build that pressure there are a certain amount of things we can do ourselves, and we do do, through our legislation, through executive orders, through what we call unilateral sanctions. But there’s a whole lot we cannot do as effectively without the cooperation of and the obligation of every country in the world to do the same. And so we work, and we recently succeeded in passing in the UN Security Council the toughest sanctions regimes to date on Iran and North Korea, and we see the practical impact that they are having. And they provide a foundation – they provide, first of all, a baseline for all nations of the world who are obligated to, for example, prevent the sale of any technology that could facilitate Iran pursuing its nuclear program, the ingredients or its ballistic missile capability. There are restrictions now on Iran’s ability to finance its nuclear programs. And in various different ways they are being limited and constrained. And I can assure you, as you’ve heard others of my colleagues do, that this is having an impact.

 “Now, once the United Nations has passed its sanctions regime, a lot of countries then have a domestic legal foundation on which to strengthen their own domestic laws above and beyond what the UN has done. And so the European Union and Japan and South Korea and the United Arab Emirates and Australia and Canada and others, after we passed the UN sanctions on Iran last June, implemented their own laws that further strengthened the pressure on Iran and further restricted their access to financial markets and the like. And we, of course, then in the United States passed our own legislation. And the combination has been quite potent. That is one way in which multilateral institutions like the United Nations serve our interests and make us – put us in a better place than where we would be if were acting alone.

 “We were talking a little while ago about Sudan, where we have stood up and been very determined to end the genocide that occurred and has occurred in Darfur. Well, again, we have a choice: Do nothing; do it ourselves; or do it together with others who share the burden and the cost. There are some 120,000 United Nations peacekeepers – military, police, and civilians – deployed in 14 missions around the world. Eighty seven of them are Americans in uniform. Of that total cost of those 14 missions, the United States pays a little – about 27 percent.  The rest of the world pays the balance. So it is a form of burden sharing that is economical, and it is a form of burden sharing that is far more effective in preventing conflict, protecting civilians even when these missions are not perfect, as I just described about Darfur – than the alternative, which would be to leave the – leave war crimes and genocide and conflict to fester or face a choice of doing it by
ourselves.

 “So, in so many ways, we need this institution. And it serves our interest 66 years later after its founding. Now, that doesn’t mean it can’t be better. It doesn’t mean it needs – it doesn’t need reform. It doesn’t mean that we don’t search for and work for savings and improvements in the efficacy of the organization. That’s what we do every day, because it’s in our interest that the institution work and be more efficient and be more effective so that it can not only sustain the support of the American people, but do the vital work that makes Americans every day safer and more secure.

 “MODERATOR: Can you speak a little bit to the second part of the question, which was about sort of the reputation of the United States within the United Nations?

“AMBASSADOR RICE: Thank you. The United Nations is not an anti-American organization, at least not in my experience over the last two years. Quite the opposite. We are now viewed as a leader, as a force for common ground and compromise and cooperation. I think, frankly, in the recent past there was a period following the Iraq war, and when one of my predecessors used to say that we could just lop ten stories off the UN tower and it wouldn’t matter, where the U.S. was more isolated and more criticized in the context of the United Nations.
 

“But that has changed dramatically, and it’s changed because we have demonstrated through our actions and our approach that we see the value of the institution, we want it to succeed, we want to make it better, we’re going to fight to reform it, but we’re doing so from within, from the perspective of somebody who wants to see the institution succeed. And so where in the past we might find ourselves an outlier on a range of issues or unable to bring others together for the issues that we care most about, whether it’s sanctions or peacekeeping or what have you, we are now a glue and a force for progress and compromise.

 “And let me just give you one small example. Last December, the General Assembly – that’s where all 192 member-states come together – inexplicably passed a resolution that reversed previous policy and made it the case there were no longer any protections in this resolution on extrajudicial killing for the killing of gays or lesbians or transgender people on the basis of their sexual orientation. It was an outrage.

“And the Europeans had been working on this issue; they had the lead. They’re good partners of ours, among others, at the United Nations, but somehow this got past them and it became the text of an amendment that emerged from one of the UN’s principal committees. And the United States stood up and said this is outrageous, it’s unacceptable, and we’re going to fight to change it when that same piece of – that same resolution came before the entire General Assembly later that month.

           “And we waged a campaign that energized the Europeans, it energized Africans, it energized Latin Americas, and we got that fixed so that it is, again, the policy of the United Nations that it is wrong and unacceptable and no longer agreed to be tolerated, that there could be any basis for extrajudicial killings, least of all, on the basis of people’s sexual orientation.

           “Now, that might have been a fight that in the past the United States would have taken a pass on. Not anymore, because it’s a matter of principle, it’s a matter of human rights, it’s a matter of human dignity, and it’s a core value of our country and our Administration.

          “And so we were able to do that and turn it around. And on issues from the establishment of this new organization, called UN Women, which is a big accomplishment, to ensuring that we have strong resolutions that condemn human rights abuses in Iran or Burma and North Korea, we are leading and building coalitions and turning out vote margins that are greater than ever before. And that’s not because we are reviled and because it’s an anti-American institution. It’s because when the United States comes to play and play constructively, the world wants to work with us. * * *

           “MODERATOR: Okay, thank you. We received this question from many different Twitter users so we just picked one of them, which was @JennyVanbergmack (ph), which says: I am concerned about the LRA. What is the UN Security Council planning on doing to address this?
 

“AMBASSADOR RICE: Let me explain the question. The LRA, for those who may not know, is the Lord’s Resistance Army. It is a horrific and brutal rebellion that was – that originated in Uganda and has now spread through parts of Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, as well as Uganda. It’s been going on for almost 30 years, and it is notorious for kidnapping and forcing into military service children – boys especially, but girls as well, ages 8, 9, 12, 13 – and killing their parents, terrorizing them, and basically holding them hostage. It’s a horrible, horrible rebellion. But it is increasingly diminished in size and it is now sort of on the run through this multi-state region that I just described.

               “The United Nations is – and in the Security Council in our resolutions have given the United Nations forces in Congo the authority to cooperate with not only the Congolese Government, but the Ugandan Government to root out LRA elements that are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and they provide logistical support, joint planning, and that sort of thing. The United States itself bilaterally has a very active effort with the Government of Uganda to support its efforts to reduce the LRA to a corps that is hopefully eventually insignificant.

          “Now, this is one of those problems that we have tried to resolve through all kinds of means. The Government of Uganda’s tried negotiations repeatedly. It’s tried brute military force, it’s tried a combination – none of which has worked. Their leader is a man named Joseph Kony, who’s one of the most enigmatic and dangerous, and arguably, irrational people to have ever lead a rebel movement. And I think most of the countries in the region have concluded that the only way to deal with this is to try to root them out, even as they continue to terrorize villages and large parts of that region. So it’s a very real concern. It’s one we deeply share.

          “The President last year signed legislation sponsored bipartisan – on a bipartisan basis in Congress to step up our national efforts to help Uganda combat the LRA, and we’re implementing that robustly. * * *

   “AMBASSADOR RICE: The United States has long taken the view that stability and democracy are not mutually exclusive but actually mutually reinforcing. And that’s what President Obama said in Cairo. And when the United States says that we support democracy in Egypt, as we have
been saying publicly and privately for many years, the reason is because we think that even in complex societies that don’t have necessarily a long tradi-tion of democracy, that societies are inherently more stable, more equitable, more functional, more peaceful when their people have the ability and the space to express themselves freely, when the institutions are representative of the people, when they are, in essence, democratic.

          “Now that’s not, in every quarter, a self-evident proposition. It’s not without some controversy. But it is the view that underpins our foreign policy in 2011. And while none of us have a crystal ball and we can’t, in all candor, predict with certainly how democratic development will unfold in each and every context, we support and are committed to democracy and human rights because we believe that not only is it right, not only is it fair, not only is it moral, but it manifestly serves our national security over the long run. * * *

          “AMBASSADOR RICE: Well, as I mentioned earlier, the UN cur-rently has 14 peacekeeping missions around the world, 120,000 people in the field, mostly military and police, some civilians. They are deployed in places from Haiti to Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Western Sahara – I’m not going to name them all – Congo, two missions in Sudan, Cyprus, Lebanon, East Timor, et cetera. * * *

          “That’s the old school form of peacekeeping and we still have some of that. And then on the other extreme are the highly complex, large, Chapter 7 protection of civilians missions of the sort that we now have in Darfur and Congo in particular. Both of those are – as I mentioned, Darfur is about 20,000, Congo is sort of 17-, 18,000. And there, the challenge is they’re not simply two warring parties on a clear-cut ceasefire line. They are rebel factions and militia and government all at each other simultaneously with the population in the middle.

 “In Darfur, many of the civilians most at risk have congregated, as you know, in IDP or refugee camps. So part of the challenge is protecting those camps and getting to remote areas where fighting between and among rebels or rebels in the government is still occurring. And it’s really hard because Congo, for example, is a country the size of the United States east of the Mississippi. And 20,000 may sound like a lot of troops, but when you think about that vast territory, when you recognize that Congo has literally no infrastructure, virtually no roads, everything – to move, you got to move by helicopter in most instances. The UN has very unfortunately not had sufficient helicopter contributions either in Darfur or in Congo from member-states, so it’s always short of air mobility. And so its ability to get to and around these vast territories is somewhat constrained.

“”The peacekeepers themselves come from a wide range of countries. The most generous contributors of peacekeepers today are – you may be surprised to know – Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India. Other countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Jordan are also very active and generous peace-keeping contributors. China, which used to never field any peacekeepers, now is probably somewhere between 10 and 15 in the rankings of contri-butors. And France and the UK and the United States and Russia, which used to be bigger contributors, are now very minor contributors compara-tively. We invest a lot in helping to professionalize and train and equip and lift peacekeepers, particularly from Africa, as they go into missions largely but not exclusively in Africa. But it is – it’s a huge enterprise. The UN has the largest force in the field of – compared to any country in the world, second only to the United States.

          “And as I mentioned earlier, it is, from the U.S. point of view, a very good investment, a bargain when you figure that the cost of deploying a single United Nations peacekeeper is much, much cheaper than the cost of deploying an American soldier. When you assess the relative benefits of leaving these places to fester and burn with huge human costs and huge costs in terms of incubating everything from disease to extremism to massive criminal networks, we’re better off trying to prevent and resolve these conflicts and protect civilians at risk than we are letting them fester. And we’re much better off if we can do that with a burden-sharing mechanism where the costs and the risks to the United States is limited.

           “MODERATOR: I think we have time for just one more question, and we have a number of users in Brazil, so we got a question from one of our Brazilian users. It’s @bernardovigital (ph) and I’m sure I’m mispronouncing that. But what is your view on the Brazilian ambition to join the Security Council?

 “AMBASSADOR RICE: Hello, Brazil. Brazil is currently serving on the Security Council as a rotating member, so I mentioned earlier there are 15 members of the Security Council, there are five permanent members, meaning that they’ve been there since 1945, they have a veto – that’s the United States, Britain, France, China, and Russia. Then the 10 other countries serve on a rotating basis. They’re elected for two-year terms and they can serve two years and come back later and serve another two years.

          “Brazil is actually, as we speak right now, the president of the Security Council for the month of February. And each country on the Council gets a turn at the presidency every 15 months. We were the president in December. Brazil and Germany, which is also on the Security Council, India, which is also presently on the Security Council as an elected member, and Japan, which just rotated off as an elected member, along with South Africa and Nigeria who also happen both to be on the Council are among the countries that aspire to permanent membership. They want the charter to be changed so that they too can have permanent seats, preferably with a veto.

          “This is what we call the debate about Security Council reform at the United Nations, and it is a hot topic, it is a debate that’s been going on for years, and it’s likely to go on some while longer. There are countries like those that want permanent seats and think that their time has come, and then there’s another half of the membership, approximately, which doesn’t want any country to have a permanent – any more countries to have a permanent seat, so – and it’s interesting. Not surprisingly, India wants a permanent seat. Pakistan opposes any permanent members. Brazil wants a permanent seat. Mexico opposes any permanent members, as does Canada. And Italy opposes permanent seats, but Germany wants one.

           “So it’s a very fluid and active debate, and our view is that we are open, from a United States point of view, to a modest expansion of the Security Council. We don’t want it to get so large that it’s unwieldy. We are not open to an extension of the veto. We’re open-minded about whether we add permanent and/or nonpermanent members. But it’s interesting, with Brazil and Germany and India and South Africa and Nigeria all on the Council at the same time, to see how they comport themselves to see the kinds of positions they take on key issues of international peace and security, democracy, and human rights. They are, in effect, in an extended audition for the rest of the world as to their readiness for permanent membership.”

So, we see Ambassador Rice at work here, ad libbing, not reading a prepared speech probably written by someone else. And we can judge for ourselves how well we are being represented at the United Nations

That’s all for this February 21st issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. We’ll be back with the next issue. Meantime, send along your views on these or other UN-related issues to www.unweek.blogspot.com

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