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UN Week – 9/19/2011

September 29, 2011

This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.

by John and Douglas Carey, Editors,

Contents of this issue: our woman at the UN and how she got there; Libya’s new regime recognized as that country’s UN representative.

           As the key players in the Palestine statehood drama approach the moment when the irresistible force meets the immovable object, let us have a look at the American woman most likely to lead the charge in the Security Council against statehood. This assumes that President Obama himself will not choose to sit in the US Security Council seat for the debate and vote.

          The woman is our number one Ambassador to the UN, Susan E. Rice. Normally self-effacing, she did on one recent occasion explain how she got where she is today. The occasion was a Back-to-School Event on September 16th at the Harry S Truman High School in New York City.

          After acknowledging the school’s Principal and 7th District Congress-man Joe Crowley, Rice went on with these words: “I want to just say a few words briefly at the outset, and then leave some time for us to have a good conversation. But let me tell you a little bit first, though, about who I am and what I’m doing.

“I was born and raised in Washington, DC. I was a pretty serious student, but I also played varsity tennis and basketball and I wasn’t so straight that I didn’t have my share of fun. I was the student body president and I graduated at the top of my high school class. And then I went to college out in California at Stanford University. Which is a great place—I recommend it for any of you who might want to check it out.

“After college, I went to graduate school in England at Oxford University and I got my Masters and PHD in International Relations. And then a few years after that, I was really privileged to join President Clinton’s Administration, where I went to work at the White House, at the National Security Council, and that’s the first time I really started working on issues related to the United Nations. I spent about four and a half years at the White House, I was responsible for UN issues and peacekeeping and then I ran the Africa office at the White House and the National Security Council. And then in President Clinton’s second term I went over to the State Department and I was the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

“In this whole process, as the Congressman said, I really got hooked on public service. The Harry S Truman fund that he mentioned to you that I got to use to help fund me at Stanford and at Oxford, is—it still exists—a scholarship for young people committed to careers in public service. So for those of you who think you may want to go into careers in public service, that is an avenue that can help support you as you go on and continue your education. And it has been a wonderful opportunity to be able to serve our country and to do the work that is so valuable to help try to protect innocent people who are vulnerable and to make the world a better place.

“So a few years ago, when a young Senator named Barack Obama decided to run for President, I said, I have to be part of this. And I was privileged to join him as one of his senior foreign policy advisors. When he won the election in 2008, I was extremely fortunate when he appointed me the American Ambassador to the UN. And now I have an extraordinary opportunity every day to serve my country.

“It’s demanding work—it’s often sometimes frustrating work, you’ve got to have a sense of humor to deal with 192 other countries with all of their different interests and issues—but I have to tell you, I love it. And it’s the greatest privilege I’ve ever had.

“I know most of you are familiar with the United Nations. It was formed after World War II, the most destructive conflict in world history, when Harry Truman and other world leaders joined together and pledged to work to maintain international peace and security. And today, the UN is the only place on the planet where all 193 countries can come together to try to address the collective problems that we all face in the world.

“The UN is more important today than it’s ever been because the way our world has changed, the problems that we face are increasingly the kind that can only be solved by countries working together. No one country, even one as powerful as our own, can tackle these challenges in isolation. Whether we’re talking about global warming, or poverty, or genocide, or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, or pandemic disease, these are kinds of things—terrorism—that we need as many countries and as many people around the world working to solve if we are really going to crack the problem. And that’s why institutions like the United Nations, which is unique, are more valuable than ever.

“So it may surprise you, but there are actually a lot of times when I’m sitting at the United Nations, scratching my head listening to yet another long speech, and I’m reflecting on why it is that this matters. Why the work that I do has any relevance. And I often think of young people like you. I am the mother of two kids and I am thinking all the time about what future we leave for you. And I know that’s how way President Obama thinks, I know that’s how Congressman Crowley thinks, and we are thinking and, in fact, fighting everyday for you so that the world you inherit is safer, more secure, and more prosperous.

“Next week, President Obama makes his annual trip to the United Nations. And all leaders from around the world come to New York City and to the United Nations for a week of intense meetings and high-level negotiations. And what they discuss and decide will, in fact, have real world implications. We’re going to talk about Libya, we are going to talk about how to fight corruption and increase transparency. We are going to talk about issues like nuclear safety and security. And we are going to deal with crises like the famine in Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

“But as world leaders meet to do what they can, the truth of the matter is that we need each of you to do your part as well. We need all of you down the road, all of you at Harry S Truman High School, to become yourselves—independent thinkers and leaders. We need each of you to make the most of your own individual talents. And we need every one of you to dream and to plan to do very big things.”

Libya’s new regime recognized as that country’s UN representative.

          While Palestinians seek UN recognition as an independent state, and as a UN member, the situation is different regarding Libya. Libya already is and has been for a very long time a recognized state and member of the UN. But while states continue to exist and their membership in the UN remains in effect, regimes change and so do the personnel representing them at the UN. Therefore there has to be a way of determining just what persons have the right to sit in the UN seat designated for a particular country. In other words, who has the right credentials? And the process is called credentialing.

          Again on September 16th, Ambassador Rice spoke these words:      “Today, by an overwhelming margin, the UN General Assembly approved the credentials of the Transitional National Council to represent the people of Libya at the United Nations. The United States congratulates the Libyan people for this historic step forward. As Libyans chart a course towards a more inclusive and democratic future that respects and protects human rights, they will have a friend and partner in the United States. I look forward to working with Libya’s new UN Permanent Representative on areas of mutual interest as our nations forge a relationship founded on mutual respect.

“The Libyan people still have much more work to do, but they also have the full knowledge that the international community, including the United States, stands ready to help their transition towards democracy, prosperity, and the rule of law. For many months, the international community has been inspired by the courage of the Libyan people. At the Secretary-General’s high-level meeting next week and in the months ahead, we will continue to support their brave and determined pursuit of a better future.”

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