Later this month, the Palestinians will ask the UN General Assembly to upgrade their status at the United Nations to become a non-member observer state. This would put them on the same membership level as the Vatican. It would not change very much about how the UN operates.
12:22. Kerry concludes, "the UN is too valuable, and the issues are too urgent." He expects to have Rice sworn in by next Wednesday at the latest. 12:20. Kerry's message to the UN: "this is a new moment," and it's time for the UN to reform. He seems to be addressing those few countries that frustrate reform efforts to "stick it in the eye of the UN." It'd be important to remember that this "new moment" may decrease the numbers of those countries. 12:13. Senator Casey brings up the General Assembly vote on decriminalizing homosexuality. Good for him. 12:06. Casey says "Lugarrrr" a day after Clinton does. A mutiny in the SFRC? 12:02. This is newsworthy: Rice says the incoming administration has not yet made a decision on whether or not to join the Human Rights Council. 12:00. "What might have been different with U.S. participation and leadership" in the Human Rights Council? A worthwhile question. 11:53. Wyoming Senator Barrasso asks the black helicopter questions on guns and global taxes. Rice responds that the UN can't change the U.S. constitution nor impose taxes on American citizens absent the consent of Congress. So your guns are safe, Senator Barrasso, and a UN "global tax" is about as likely as a UN attempt to raise an army of giant green swamp monsters. 11:50. Rice navigates a tricky answer about involving U.S. personnel in UN operations; they will not operate under UN "command responsibility," but can contribute to UN missions. 11:47. Boxer likes her International Human Rights Convention on the Rights of the Child. Rice calls it a " shame" that the United States stands only with Somalia in not ratifying the treaty.
Moments before Susan Rice's confirmation hearing to become the next U.S. Ambassador to the UN (which we'll live-blogging shortly, as we did so vigorously with Secretary of State-designate Clinton's) begins, it seems appropriate to reflect on some of current Ambassador Khalilzad's pragmatic points from his "exit interview" at the New America Foundation yesterday.
"Reasonable" resolutions do wonders. Khalilzad revealed a simple strategy for reversing the Bolton-esque 14-1 votes, featuring a ham-handed U.S. veto, that made the United States look like a not very eager partner. If a country like Libya tried to introduce an inflammatory resolution on Israel-Palestine, Khalilzad related, instead of fulminating against it, he would take up the challenge and work to transform the piece of Israel-bashing into a reasonable resolution, including language, for instance, condemning terrorist attacks. Libya, beholden to its own domestic politics, could not then agree to its own resolution, and it would become the isolated 1 in the 14-1 vote, thus withdrawing its resolution.
Employ an "Adjective-Maker-in-Chief." This is the term that moderator Steve Clemons used to underscore Khalilzad's comment on the importance of coming to Security Council meetings prepared with a, er, flexible vocabulary. If one word doesn't work, try another. A thesaurus can be a handy tool for diplomacy.
Listen! Clemons reported that all the other UN ambassadors with whom he spoke expressed pleasant surprise -- and sometimes downright shock -- that Khalilzad would call upon them in their offices. Once there, Khalilzad stressed, he actually listened to what his counterparts had to say. Style and tone, in turns out, matter a lot up at Turtle Bay.
And finally, Khalilzad admitted: always have a resignation letter tucked away in a drawer somewhere, just in case.
(cross-posted at On Day One) A sneak preview of an ad, signed by dozens of Republican and Democratic foreign policy luminaries, that will run in Thursday's New York Times.
In today's rapidly changing world of interdependence, globalization, and transnational threats, the United States must balance a strong military with creative diplomacy to secure America's interests. We must recognize that the United Nations is a critical platform and partner for advancing international cooperation on today's global threats and challenges, such as poverty and disease, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and climate change. The UN cannot succeed without strong U.S. leadership and support. The next President has a unique opportunity to revitalize the U.S.-UN relationship as a symbol of America's commitment to constructive international cooperation. This investment will pay off substantially by helping to enhance our standing internationally and strengthen our ability to keep America safe and strong.The letter, sponsored by the Partnership for a Secure America and the UN Foundation and spearheaded by former Democratic Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Republican National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, also includes the signatures of various high-profile Senators, Representatives, and officials from both parties. These foreign policy experts express a UNanimoUS (UN-U.S., get it yet?) consent that the incoming Obama administration should, among other important steps, pay U.S. debts to the UN on time, seek a seat on the Human Rights Council, and provide concrete support for UN peacekeeping. If you can't wait to see the ad in tomorrow's Times, check out coverage in WaPo and Reuters, or take a look at the pdf version.
From his influential corner, Refugees International president Ken Bacon breaks down the two presidential candidates' differing outlooks toward the UN. He also offers a compelling case of why the United States -- under either a Republican or Democratic administration -- should revamp its support for the UN, which has too often flagged in the past eight years.
Not only is the U.S. sometimes slow to pay its dues to the UN, but it is also hundreds of billions of dollars short of meetings its obligation to pay its share of UN peacekeeping operations that have been so important in helping to restore order in places like Liberia. [snip] There are many things to criticize and to change at the UN, but for all of its frustrations and foibles, it remains the best-positioned organization to craft multi-lateral solutions to trans-national problems, such as climate change and nuclear proliferation, as well as difficult regional issues involving conflict, refugee flows and disaster response.Well said. You can see why the UN is so important to Ken when you check out the top three priorities that he thinks the next president needs to focus on, starting On Day One of the next administration.
It's somewhat of a truism that leaders of an armed coup will attempt to justify their takeover by painting it as urgently necessary for their country's welfare and overwhelmingly supported by the local population. In his turn speaking in front of the General Assembly, the UN ambassador from Mauritania, whose military toppled the country's democratically elected president in early August, made no exception to this formula:
In view of the political impasse, the armed forces and the security forces, conscious of the serious dangers to the country, intervened in order to correct the deviations and pressure national unity and the other gains of the country, and its prospects of development and progress. This change has engaged the support of two thirds of members of parliament and about 90% of mayors and two thirds of the recognized political parties in addition to other organizations of the civil society including cultural and professional societies and unprecedented popular marches.I don't know where the ambassador is getting his statistics, but independent news outlets have reported that the junta is "facing criticism at home and abroad," even if the putsch "garnered some support in Mauritania's political establishment." Some of the "popular marches," of course, were actually protests against the new regime. The Security Council has condemned the coup, as have the United States, France, the World Bank, and both the European Union and African Union. Also apparently opposed to the coup is al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb -- the very terrorist organization that, ironically, the junta claimed that it would be better than its predecessor at combating. Oh, and also like many putschists before them, the Mauritanian coup leaders have assured that free elections are coming "in the near future."
Continuing our coverage of some of the speeches of world leaders at the General Assembly, yesterday the president of East Timor, where the UN has maintained a peacekeeping presence since 1999, proclaimed the dawning of a new era of peace for his country. Addressing the UN -- albeit perhaps not in the role he may have expected that he would -- President Jose Ramos-Horta applauded the progress that East Timor has made in moving beyond recent violence, and duly acknowledged the crucial support his country has received: "However, we would not have succeeded in pulling back from the brink without the prompt and steadfast support from the international community," Mr. Ramos-Horta, co-laureate of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, said, highlighting the assistance received from the UN and countries such as Australia and New Zealand. He mustn't forget to recognize the influence of Jackie Chan, of course.
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