Excerpt from Testimony of Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, House Subcommittee on Appropriations for State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, March 20, 2012
In response to the ongoing horrors in Syria, the United States and our partners have engaged in intensive diplomacy at the United Nations to put the world on record in support of an immediate halt to the violence; a negotiated, peaceful solution; and a responsible democratic transition. While Russia and China twice vetoed Security Council action, the United Nations General Assembly and Human Rights Council have repeatedly condemned the carnage the Asad regime is inflicting on its own people and endorsed the Arab League’s proposal for a transition. The Human Rights Council has mandated a Commission of Inquiry that has thoroughly investigated and documented the human rights abuses of the Asad regime. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and senior UN officials have vigorously condemned abuses by the Syrian regime and called for an end to the violence. The United Nations and the Arab League have jointly appointed former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as their Special Envoy for Syria. The UN has coordinated the delivery of critical humanitarian assistance to afflicted Syrian communities and has provided support to thousands of Syrian refugees and vulnerable populations inside Syria tormented by the regime’s systematic abuses, though the need remains great.
The regime continues to renege on its commitment to implement the League of Arab States’ action plan agreed to in November. It has spurned efforts by its Arab neighbors to mediate a peaceful political solution. It continues to wage a brutal campaign against innocent civilians and there are credible allegations that the regime has committed crimes against humanity.
The United States fully supports the Syrian people’s demands for a unified Syria with a democratic, representative, and inclusive government that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms, and we fully support the Arab League’s unprecedented initiatives to end this crisis peacefully. In order to provide lifesaving assistance to Syrian civilians in need, we have announced a $12 million initial contribution to scale up humanitarian efforts. To deepen the Asad regime’s isolation, we have imposed sanctions and worked with others to do so as well, such as placing travel bans on senior members of the regime, freezing their assets, boycotting Syrian oil, and considering closing embassies and consulates. And we have encouraged a democratic transition by supporting opposition groups and individuals inside and outside Syria to come together around a common vision for the country’s future where the rights of every citizen are respected and protected.
In Syria, as elsewhere, the United States has led efforts to promote principled action at the UN through persistent diplomacy with our traditional allies, regional partners, and emerging powers. Indeed, this has been the hallmark of the Obama Administration’s engagement at the UN. We work hard to build and sustain the coalitions required to advance our interests and values. And we fulfill our obligations, so that our hand is that much stronger when we demand that others do the same. Our investments at the United Nations have advanced U.S. interests and made the American people more safe and secure.
In Libya, the United States and its allies acted through the United Nations to prevent Qadafhi from massacring his own people. And now the UN is remaining engaged over the long term, helping the people of Libya make the difficult transition to democracy after a brutal dictatorship.
To curtail illicit nuclear weapons programs, the United States led the Security Council in imposing the toughest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea. As a result, a large number of countries have also imposed additional bilateral sanctions on Iran, and the regime is more isolated than ever before with its leaders facing crippling sanctions. As the President has repeatedly made clear, we will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and as long as Iran fails to meet its international obligations, the pressure will build.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the United Nations is providing vital assistance to their political transitions, and to their social and economic development – supporting the process of bringing our service members home responsibly.
After decades of brutal war, the United Nations played a critical role in supporting the creation of the newly independent South Sudan. There are significant challenges ahead in Darfur, Abyei, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan, so the United States will continue our efforts to support Sudan and South Sudan living side by side in peace.
In Cote d’Ivoire, the UN stood firm in stopping a strongman from stealing an election and ensured that the democratically elected President took office, preventing a return to civil war.
In Haiti, the United Nations has been essential in helping the country recover and rebuild from the devastating earthquake two years ago – a tragedy that claimed thousands of lives, including one hundred and two UN personnel. The United States worked closely with the UN to help the Government of Haiti ensure security and deliver humanitarian relief. Tens of thousands of U.S. forces were able to withdraw from Haiti within a few months as the UN peacekeeping presence was quickly reconstituted.
During last year’s General Assembly, we secured, by the largest margins ever, condemnations of Iran and North Korea – and for the first time ever, Syria – for their mass violations of human rights. In the Human Rights Council, the United States worked to achieve ground-breaking resolutions on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, discrimination against women, religious tolerance, and investigations into human rights abuses in Syria, Sudan, North Korea, Libya, and Iran.
We have led the fight for women’s rights, forging a broad coalition to establish UN Women, a streamlined entity that replaced multiple UN offices, and that now works to empower women worldwide. We also support the vital work of a Special Representative to tackle the issue of sexual violence in conflict.
We’ve spearheaded important progress throughout the UN system to advance the universal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, including landmark victories in the General Assembly and Human Rights Council, and our advocacy on behalf of LGBT non-governmental organizations.
These are just a few examples of how United States leadership at the United Nations is yielding tangible dividends for the American people.