UN Reform, Situation in the Middle East, Iran, North Korea, and Other MattersAmbassador John R. Bolton, Nominee for Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations
Statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
New York City
July 27, 2006
USUN PRESS RELEASE #188Mr. Chairman,
Thank you for inviting me to appear before the Committee today. I would also like to thank you and your colleagues for the support you have given me over the course of the past year. Whether it is the attention this Committee has focused on reforming the United Nations, or the myriad of critical issues currently on the agenda of the Security Council, your work has helped to advance important policy goals of the United States. Forging a strong relationship between the United States and the United Nations, while advancing U.S. national interests, requires close cooperation and coordination between all branches of the U.S. government, other Member States, and the UN Secretariat. I thank you for your help and look forward to continuing and strengthening our close working relationship if confirmed.
The need for a strong and effective UN remains as powerful today as ever. As President Bush has declared, "Now, more than ever, the UN must play a critical role as it strives to fulfill the dreams and hopes and aspirations of its original promise to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, to reaffirm faith and fundamental human rights and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom."
Mr. Chairman, for close to a year now, I have had the privilege and honor to serve as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. I have had also had the privilege and honor to work with a fantastic team at our Mission up in New York. The dedication and commitment of the staff at the U.S. Mission has been instrumental in advancing our policy goals, and I can not thank them enough. If confirmed, I look forward to continuing my close working relationship with them, in addition to doing my utmost to uphold the confidence that the President, Secretary Rice, and the Senate will have placed in me.
In the time I have before you today, I would like to divide my remarks into three broad categories. First, I would like to discuss the important work we have been engaged in on the Security Council, which is currently handling one of its busiest schedules ever in light of recent developments in the world, notably the situation in the Middle East. Second, I would like to provide an update on where we stand on reforming the United Nations, discussing both the challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead of us. Third, I would like to mention some of the work we are doing in cooperation with the UN to achieve our long-term objectives on critical policy goals like economic development and eradicating HIV/AIDS. Following that, I would be happy to answer any questions you or your colleagues may have on these or other subjects.
Security Council Agenda Items
Mr. Chairman, many have remarked, and I agree, that this has been one of the busiest times for the Security Council. Sadly, world events do not pause for summer. Emergency meetings have become the norm. After months of working side by side with other Members on the Council, I believe I have established a good working relationship with them, and if confirmed, I pledge to continue deepening those relationships, while still advancing our national interests. Let me now turn to a few specific subjects.
The Situation in the Middle East
While policy discussions are underway in Rome to devise a solution, important steps are already underway to alleviate the suffering of civilians. Just two days ago, Secretary of State Rice authorized $30 million in immediate humanitarian assistance to victims of the conflict in Lebanon. To meet the most urgent needs, the United States has dispatched two large-scale medical deliveries. Each of these deliveries contains enough medicine and supplies to meet the basic medical needs of 10,000 people for a three month period. The U.S. will also begin delivering other direct U.S. assistance to Lebanon, including plastic sheeting and blankets.
The Security Council is also actively seized of the matter. We are working closely with other Members of the Council to ensure that appropriate, I stress appropriate, action is taken by the Council. It would be a disservice and only bring increased hardship to the peoples of Israel and Lebanon if the Security Council adopted stopgap measures, which would do nothing to address the root causes of the violence. It was with this in mind that the United States felt it necessary to veto a lopsided Resolution two weeks ago on this matter, the first time we had to do so in almost two years.
We are actively engaged in New York to identify lasting solutions to bring about a permanent peace in the Middle East. To do so, however, requires that we have a shared understanding of the problem. The United States has held the firm view that the root cause of the problem is terrorism - and that this terrorism is solely and directly responsible for the situation we find ourselves in today. This terrorism manifests itself, not only in the form of Hezbollah and Hamas, but also in their state sponsors in Tehran and Damascus. We should all take note, particularly Iran and Syria, of the important statement from the Arab League for its courage and conviction in condemning Hezbollah for its role in instigating this latest round of violence.
As we speak, Hezbollah continues to operate in Southern Lebanon with impunity, defying the will of the Security Council as established in Resolution 1559. We are working hard with others to bring about the full implementation of Resolution 1559 and the full extension of its authority by the government of Lebanon over all of Lebanese territory. If that were done, then Israel would be less subject to terrorist attacks, and the people of Lebanon would not be subject to the reign of terror that Hezbollah inflicts.
We are actively considering the variety of proposals on the table on how best to secure the implementation of Resolution 1559, including the insertion of an international stabilization force. I would value any thoughts you or your colleagues may have on this matter. For our part, our view is that we must always keep at the forefront that the key goal should be to disarm and "defang" Hezbollah, to quote Secretary Rice.
We take note that some Member States have called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah -- but we must ask our colleagues: how do you negotiate and maintain a ceasefire with a terrorist organization, one which does not even recognize the right of Israel to exist? The United States has no confidence that Hezbollah would honor an unconditional ceasefire. History shows us that it would only allow them time to regroup and plan their next wave of kidnappings and attacks against Israel. The United States seeks an end to the violence that afflicts innocent civilians, and for that very reason we are working for the conditions that will make a real cease fire possible and permanent. Our aim is to address the underlying causes of the violence in southern Lebanon -- namely terrorism.
In considering any stabilization force, we need to consider several questions. Would the new force be empowered to deal with the real problem, namely Hezbollah? How would such a force deal with Hezbollah armed components, and would it be empowered to deal with arms shipments from countries like Syria and Iran that support Hezbollah? How would the new force relate to the existing UN Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, which already has been there for 28 years? Finally, would such a force contribute to the institutional strength to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to help fully implement Resolution 1559?
These are all important questions currently under discussion by the Secretary in Rome and the Security Council. The question of Israel's response has come up as well. Of course it is a matter of great concern to us, as President Bush has stressed, that civilian deaths are occurring. It is a tragedy, and I would not attempt to describe it any other way. We have urged the government of Israel to exercise the greatest possible care in its use of force.
Mr. Chairman, the United States remains firmly committed to working through the Security Council, indeed through all diplomatic channels, to finding a lasting end to the violence. We hope that from this current crisis we can seize the opportunity to once and forever dismantle Hezbollah, restore democratic control by Lebanon over all of its territory, and lay the foundations that would allow Israel to live in peace with its neighbors.
It is critical that we succeed in these efforts. Iran's unrelenting pursuit of nuclear weapons poses a grave and direct threat to international peace and security. In tandem with their pursuit of even longer-range ballistic missiles, we must treat the threat they pose to our friends and allies in the region and beyond with the utmost gravity. This is particularly clear in light of the inflammatory rhetoric of Iran's leader, who is recklessly calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and even questions the tragic events of the Holocaust.
The discussions are still ongoing, but I am hopeful that the Council will recognize the threat Iran's program poses to international peace and security and take appropriate action. We are doing a full court press, both in New York and in capitals around the world to seek a diplomatic resolution to this matter, and we are confident that a strong resolution from the Council will be instrumental in this regard.
The Administration is very pleased the Council was able to take such firm and decisive action. This Resolution was the outcome of eleven days of intensive negotiations, often lasting late into the night between the five permanent members of the Council and Japan. Bear in mind, when North Korea launched a ballistic missile over Japan's airspace in 1998, the response of the Council was a weak and feckless press statement. This time, however, we were able to bring along China and Russia to support a very strong Resolution, even though they initially supported issuing yet another press statement. The outcome of our diplomatic efforts has been to send a clear, unambiguous, and unanimous signal to North Korea that their provocative behavior is unacceptable. The fact that both China and Russia supported a Resolution, the first one on North Korea since 1993, cannot be lost on the North Korean leadership.
As called for in Resolution 1695, North Korea remains very much on the Council's agenda. This is particularly important in light of North Korea's rejection of the Resolution some 45 minutes after its passing, where they also vowed to continue testing missiles. We believe that Resolution 1695 highlights the important role the Security Council can play to help buttress other diplomatic efforts, such as the Six-Party Talks. We call upon North Korea not only to return to Six-Party Talks, but to implement the Joint Statement it agreed to in September 2005. If North Korea chooses a different path, however, it should know that the Security Council stands ready and willing to consider further steps.
Sudan and Darfur
While we do see a way forward, significant challenges remain. We are working within the Security Council to craft a robust resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter that will afford any UN force the capability and the mandate to defend itself and the civilians in Darfur. Russia and China continue to voice opposition to a Chapter VII mandate. However, in May the Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1679, designed to facilitate planning for the future deployment of a UN peacekeeping operation in the Darfur region. We believe this to be a viable precedent for upcoming Darfur resolutions. There is also the issue of the Government of Sudan agreeing to a UN Force in Darfur. Significant efforts are ongoing bilaterally and multilaterally to achieve this. While this plays out, we continue to do our part toward adopting a resolution, determining force requirements and identifying troop contributing countries so that we are fully prepared to go in and complete the mission.
The UN Technical Assessment Mission has returned from Sudan and is finalizing its report to the Security Council, however preliminary indications are that Department of Peacekeeping Operations will recommend a UN force package in Darfur of approximately 15,000 to 17,000 troops to be operational on or about January 1, 2007. We prefer to have a credible force there sooner than that and are concerned about the interim. Therefore, while we continue to do all we can to hasten the deployment of a new force, we are also working with our allies and the UN to provide support to the existing African Union force presently on the ground in Darfur, known as "AMIS." AMIS has done all it can to keep order by patrolling an area nearly the size of Texas with about 7,000 troops, but they have reached the limits of their capabilities. So until we have a UN force on the ground, we are working with our NATO allies to support AMIS with immediate assistance in the form of planning, logistics, intelligence support, and other help.
As President Bush has said, "America will not turn away from this tragedy. We will call genocide by its rightful name, and we will stand up for the innocent until the peace of Darfur is secured." We are working tirelessly in New York to bring this to fruition.
Reforming the United Nations: A Status Report and Plan for the Future
Increasing Transparency: An Important First Step
While these reforms are important steps in the right direction, we had hoped for more. It was with this in mind that that the United States supported the approval of only a six-month interim budget last December. That was the right decision to focus the attention of Member States not only on how badly needed are reforms, but on the seriousness of purpose with which we approach the subject. Now that the cap has been lifted, we will continue to work with other Member States and the Secretariat to achieve our mutually shared objectives.
The goal now is to identify priority target areas where progress can be made and take the necessary steps to demonstrate that the UN and its Member States are fully engaged in launching what Secretary of State Rice has termed a "lasting revolution of reform" -- one that will transform the United Nations into an institution fully capable of addressing the complex array of challenges now confronting the global community. To this end, the United States recently joined consensus on the adoption of several reforms related to: information and communication technology; budget implementation; financial management practices; and improved reporting mechanisms, including increased public access to UN records. The key now, of course, is to seek effective implementation.
These issues all speak to our attempts to change the "culture of inaction" described by Paul Volcker before this very Committee when discussing the Oil-for-Food scandal. To change this culture, we are working to increase the transparency and accountability of the UN, not just to shine a light on the agencies or bodies which may be in need of reform, but to allow those that do work effectively to better advertise and market their expertise in ways that might serve as a model for others.
While the steps mentioned above take us in the right direction, implementation remains a key priority. Last month I had the opportunity to meet with the leaders of the UN Staff Union. They expressed some concern that while the reforms enacted to date are a step in the right direction, they do not go far enough, for example, to protect UN staffers who actually do "blow the whistle" on undesirable UN activities. We are working now to help ensure that these reforms are not only enacted, but implemented as well. Interestingly, the Union also raised the issue of transparency - an issue that we have stressed as well on a wide-range of subjects. We concur with the UN Staff Union that an open and transparent decision-making process is integral to the success of management reform, regardless of the specific reforms adopted.
The last point about public access is part of an innovative new approach to increasing accountability and transparency at the United Nations, something we think will benefit everyone. Under the auspices of a new program called "The Transparency Initiative", the U.S. Mission at the United Nations is making reports published by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) available to the public via our website.
We believe making OIOS reports more readily available will strengthen the hand of OIOS within the UN system. You may recall that last May before this very Committee, I raised concerns about OIOS independence and autonomy, citing a report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Their conclusions supported our own determination that OIOS is potentially beholden to those it is responsible for investigating, thereby creating an inherent conflict of interest. This situation is untenable and only abets those who may seek to defraud or abuse the system. But this is all the more reason to open up OIOS reports to public scrutiny. OIOS can serve as a valuable tool for Member States to take action or push through reforms that are sorely needed. To this end, we will also push hard to make sure that the Independent Audit Advisory Committee is fully established to validate OIOS' working methods and ensure OIOS' operational independence from the UN Secretariat.
Fostering awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of various UN agencies is a necessary and critical, though we acknowledge not solely sufficient, first step to deepening the reform process currently underway. If confirmed, I pledge to continue working on this important issue.
This remarkably frank assessment included a number of specific proposals to reform the UN system to increase efficiency. Recently, the Fifth Committee, which is the member state body in the UN system that handles budgetary and management-related issues, voted against many measures that would have increased the ability of the Secretariat to implement a number of significant and genuine reforms. To be sure, we did not agree with every single reform proposed by the Secretary-General, but we certainly agree with his diagnosis of the problem and support his efforts.
What was particularly interesting about the recent Fifth Committee vote on some of the Secretary-General's proposed reforms was the way the vote split. On one side was a group of 50 nations, including the United States, who were pushing an ambitious reform agenda, whose combined contributions totaled 86.7% of the UN budget. On the other side were over 120 nations who contributed 12% of the budget and chose to block these reforms. Clearly there is work that needs to be done to bridge this divide.
Despite that vote, there has been some recent progress, including adoption of international accounting standards and the creation of a Chief Technology Officer for the UN. We must acknowledge, though, it will be an uphill battle, with a majority of member states expressing their opposition to some of the most basic and important management reform measures, such as giving the Secretary-General more discretion on budget and personnel matters.
It has become apparent that some members of the General Assembly are trying to hinder the Secretary-General from serving in his Charter capacity as the Chief Administrative Officer of the UN due to their desire not to cede any authority from the General Assembly. We agree that the Member States should have the bulk of the authority, but believe that the Fifth Committee's micromanagement hampers the Secretariat from effectively achieving goals of member states. And when the G-77 calls for an "accountable" Secretariat, we hope its Members will be more concerned about ethics, oversight, and transparency, than with preserving micromanagerial prerogatives over personnel and other administrative matters.
We have been hard at work in this regard. Since the establishment of the General Assembly Informal Plenary on Mandate Review at the end of last year there have been some 20 meetings of the Plenary, including 12 previous informal consultations. During these meetings Member States tabled some 100 proposals, 40 of which were tabled by the United States. In addition, the Co-Chairs also circulated a paper prepared by the Secretariat, at the request of the Member States, identifying a significant number of other proposals relating to the consolidation or reduction of reports.
Unfortunately, we are still bogged down in the "process" of how to review the mandates as opposed to conducting the actual review of live, substantive mandates. There has been a refusal by some states since the signing of the Outcome Document to consider a review of mandates five years and older which had been renewed unless certain conditions were met. This effectively eliminates 96% of the total existing mandates and is inconsistent with both the spirit and clear decision by leaders who signed the World Summit Outcome Document last September. We are not giving up, however, and still hope that we can move forward to complete our review by the end of this year provided in the Outcome Document.
Human Rights Council
While he have not yet made a decision on whether or not to run for next year's Council, it gives us considerable pause for concern that this newly reformed body managed to adopt only one country-specific resolution against one of the UN's 192 members - Israel. That they had to call a special session to do so is even more disturbing. This is, of course, highly disappointing given the abuses being carried out in countries such as North Korea, Burma, Iran, the Sudan to name a few. That this newly formed body would launch their work through this kind of selective adoption of resolutions can only undermine the Council's credibility to address human rights violations.
As I noted last May, though, despite our disappointment that the new Council is too similar to the old Commission, the United States will continue to work with democratic delegations through our team in Geneva, which will still attend its meetings to advance our goals. My colleague, Ambassador Tichenor, has worked energetically to promote U.S. interests and values there and will continue to do so.
We are also working to achieve greater economic openness and liberalization in trade and investment flows so that all may share fully in growing global prosperity. To help those most in need, we have almost tripled Official Development Assistance since 2000, to $27.5 billion last year. We are pleased that after months of intense negotiations, the UN General Assembly passed a Resolution on development that emphasizes not only the rights of countries, but their responsibilities as well.
Of course, we all recognize that for the poor in developing countries, the greatest need is not development assistance: it is a job -- meaningful, productive employment, "decent work." It is the experience of the United States that job creation cannot be separated from economic growth and enhanced productivity. Other countries will face different challenges, but fostering an environment that promotes entrepreneurship and provides legal protection and regulatory stability for the private sector is a necessary if not sufficient condition for success.
The United States is working to help nations through the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation, which allocates its assistance based on criteria such as rule of law, investment in health and education, and economic freedom. The United States also believes that job creation must go hand in hand with respect for fundamental principles and rights at work, namely, freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to bargain collectively, the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor, the effective abolition of child labor, and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The United States supports the International Labor Organization's (ILO) Decent Work Country Programs as a valuable contribution to broader development frameworks.
There are some types of employment we don't support, such as exploitative child labor and forced labor. Children need to be in school mastering the skills and knowledge they will need to be the workforce of the future. That is why the United States has contributed more than $295 million to the ILO since 1995 to fight the worst forms of child labor.
The Emergency Plan works in partnership with the hardest-hit countries -- and that partnership is saving lives. When President Bush announced PEPFAR at the beginning of 2003, only 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa were thought to be receiving anti-retroviral treatment. Now, in PEPFAR's 15 focus nations, the United States has helped provide treatment for more than 560,000 people. Even more are being reached through America's contributions to the Global Fund, demonstrating the variety of venues and forums the U.S. is working through to help vulnerable populations. This direct medical care keeps people in good health. It also focuses on education, not only in terms of prevention, but in how to cope with the infection if you are living-I emphasize living-with HIV/AIDS. That emphasis is necessary because now millions are learning to live with HIV/AIDS -- instead of waiting to die from it.
While much work, of course, remains to be done, there are some rays of hope where we can point to models of success. In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, new data show Africa's ABC model of AIDS prevention has led to dramatic declines in HIV-infection rates in young men and women. Pregnant mothers with HIV are now being taught that their unborn children do not have to inherit their disease.
The challenge ahead is to see that more people know how HIV is transmitted -- and every country has an obligation to educate its citizens. As the First Lady so eloquently noted, "This is why every country must also improve literacy, especially for women and girls, so they can learn to make wise choices that will keep them healthy and safe."
Mr. Chairman, it has been almost exactly one year that I have had the privilege and honor to serve as the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations. I have had the opportunity to hold direct discussions with almost every Permanent Representative from other Member States at the UN on one-one-basis. During this period, I have done my best to work with others to advance our national interests. I do believe important advances have been made. In cases where we would have liked to have seen further progress, we now have greater clarity on the differences that we all must still work together to resolve.
Whether through the remaining tenure of my appointment or longer if confirmed, I pledge to continue working with this Committee. Your work on has been instrumental to helping us achieve our objectives in New York. Both the UN Secretariat and delegations of other Member States have a much greater appreciation of the importance the Congress-mirroring the American people-attach to the subject of UN reform. As the UN's largest financial contributor, totaling some 22% of the regular assessed budget, the United States has a vital stake in ensuring that the UN succeeds. On issues before the Security Council, I can not emphasize enough the positive and constructive role members of this Committee have played in helping us to advance important goals, whether in Iran, the Sudan, or in other troubled regions of the world. I thank you for you consideration and am happy to answer any questions you or your colleagues may have.
Released on July 27, 2006