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15 March 2017
UNA-NCA President's Statement: US Leadership at the United Nations Has Never Been More Important

The first member of President Trump's foreign policy team to be confirmed by the Senate was UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. In her confirmation hearing, then Governor Haley testified: "I don't think we need to pull money out of the UN....we don't believe in slash and burn... We need to look at each and every mission, see what we are doing and how to make it more effective... As I've said, you can never win with slash and burn techniques." Since then Ambassador Haley has been the most effective foreign policy spokesperson in the Trump Administration, vigorously taking on Russian aggression in Crimea and the Ukraine, North Korean missile and nuclear mischief, and Syrian crimes against humanity. She has articulated a US foreign policy most consistent with bipartisan US foreign policy since World War II, thereby showing how US leadership at the United Nations is an essential tool in the US national security arsenal.

The unfortunate unfolding of the Trump Administration's proposed deep budget cuts in the funding of the State Department, the United Nations, and Foreign Assistance and its apparent intent to withdraw from UN agencies with which it disagrees represents a stark departure from the post-World War II global order designed, created, and advanced by both Republican and Democratic Administrations. Yes, for a time, the US sought to withhold funding from the UN, but funding was quickly restored after 9/11 when we woke up and realized that we were no longer an oasis, immune from the forces of evil and good in the global community. We recognized that the challenges we face in the 21st century are inherently global and need a global response-- terrorism, pandemics, an interconnected global economy, fair trade, climate change, migration, nuclear proliferation, among others.

While 193 nations may disagree on issues from time to time, for the most part the United Nations has been a strong voice in support of US values and policies from confronting nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea, addressing war crimes and the use of chemical weapons in Syria, providing humanitarian assistance to victims of natural and man-made disasters, advocating for human rights, working for peace and security in conflict areas and creating sustainable and democratic institutions in failed and failing states. Like any complex organization, including the US Congress and the federal bureaucracy, the United Nations faces bureaucratic challenges and conflicting visions. History teaches that the UN is at its best when there is strong US leadership. When the only former UN ambassador to serve as US president, George H. W. Bush, sought UN support to confront Iraqi's invasion of Kuwait, the UN provided critical support for the Gulf war. As the only nation to send an Ambassador to New York for UN management and reform, the US has been successful in advocating for much needed reforms in the UN budget and personnel management, especially when we work behind the scene in quiet diplomacy with like-minded nations. Much more needs to be done. And we are fortunate that the UN has a Secretary General, who is greatly respected and fully committed to UN reform.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres' recent initiative to strengthen the accountability and effectiveness of UN Peacekeepers demonstrates not only his commitment to address abuses and neglect in need of reform but, perhaps more importantly, it serves a critical US national security objective and fundamental tenet of President Trump's foreign policy. The president has made clear that fighting global terrorism is a top priority, but he also has made clear the the United States cannot be the policeman of the world intervening in conflict situations around the globe and engaging in nation building. Yet, failing states are breeding grounds for terrorist cells. Strengthening UN Peacekeeping, with strong US and NATO support, would provide a cost-effective response to the proliferation of conflicts in areas where the US has no intention of deploying boots on the ground. The president understands that the American public would not support redeploying American troops to places like Somalia and Lebanon. We have done that before with disastrous consequences.

President Trump has proposed substantial increases in the defense budget, and so perhaps it is time for the Defense Department to assume the responsibility for funding UN Peacekeepers. With the US Security Council veto and with the US meeting its substantial peacekeeping funding commitments, the US must approve all peacekeeping missions and can exercise oversight over their implementation. This would be a cost effective tool in advancing the new administration's national security objectives.

In a broader sense, the new Secretary General's commitment to UN reform and the new President's foreign policy reforms offer the potential of a marriage of convenience.

We at UNA-NCA have to make the case. There are many examples of how US leadership at the UN serves the Administration's foreign policy objectives. US active engagement at the UN Human Rights Council has lessened the obsessive focus on Israel and raised important issues about human rights in North Korea, Syria, Sri Lanka, and China. This is effective US diplomatic leadership at work shaping the UN agenda. Member states that may resent US lecturing on human rights will listen when the United Nations speaks for the global community. Many in Congress understand this, and with strong advocacy, Congress will maintain the funding levels for diplomacy, the United Nations and bilateral and multilateral foreign assistance. US leadership at the UN has never been more important. We encourage our members and supporters to take action now!

-Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (Retired)
President, United Nations Association of the National Capital Area

Please see document  prepared by the Better World Campaign and UNA-USA explaining the potential impacts of the Administration's proposed cuts on UN peacekeeping, humanitarian, and global health programs.
 

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