Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you so much, Tim. I’m very pleased to be with you tonight to join in honoring the distinguished recipients of your Global Leadership Award, all of whom are so worthy of your recognition. I want to congratulate in particular, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has been a personal hero of mine since college. I will never forget you coming to Stanford University during the height of the anti-apartheid struggle and giving one of the most powerful speeches I’ve ever heard. You declared that the people of South Africa did not want their chains polished…meaning no half gestures. South Africans wanted their chains broken and were demanding the full measure of freedom owed each of God’s children. To this day, you remain a clarion voice for the oppressed, a champion for global justice, and an inspiration to all who struggle for freedom, equality and peace.
I want to thank especially Ted Turner, Tim Wirth, Kathy Calvin, Patrick Madden and the entire UNF/UNA family for your steadfast support of the United Nations and a strong U.S.-UN relationship. Secretary-General Ban, thank you again for your unwavering partnership and your committed leadership of the United Nations, especially in these challenging times. And through you, I want to underscore our deep gratitude to the staff of the UN Secretariat, and the agencies, funds and programs for their dedicated service.
I’m proud to be back among so many people who believe passionately in preserving and strengthening the U.S-UN relationship. Over the past four years, I’ve seen first-hand how active and constructive U.S. leadership at the UN advances U.S. strategic interests and helps us tackle the most pressing global challenges. That leadership and American partnership with countries from every region, nations small and large, have produced: the toughest UN sanctions ever against Iran and North Korea; renewed momentum to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials; progress towards the goal of a world without nuclear weapons; an unprecedented mandate to save lives in Libya; support for the successful birth of South Sudan; the robust defense of democracy in Cote d’Ivoire; an historic political transition in Somalia; and, vigorous global efforts to fight terrorism.
The U.S. provided critical support to the UN as it delivered lifesaving humanitarian aid in response to the earthquake in Haiti, the floods in Pakistan, and famine in the Horn of Africa, among other crisis zones. U.S. advocacy and diplomacy helped spur the General Assembly to create a new, consolidated agency dedicated to the empowerment of women. And, in the Security Council, the U.S. championed creation of the office to combat sexual violence in conflict zones.
Even the Human Rights Council has significantly improved its performance since the United States joined in 2009, squarely confronting gross violations in Iran, Libya, Syria, Cote d’Ivoire, Burma, North Korea, Cambodia, Belarus, Sri Lanka, Eritrea, and Sudan. We galvanized historic action to condemn the violence and human rights abuses suffered by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons. Several of the world’s worst human rights abusers have dropped their bids for Council membership rather than face U.S.-led opposition. And Israel can count on a resolute friend to combat consistently biased treatment.
Together, we are working to make the UN more efficient and effective. Thanks to the leadership of the Secretary-General, with the active support of the U.S. and scores of member states, the UN has made real strides towards reform and modernization. Last year, for example, the UN cut its 2012-2013 regular budget by 5% over the previous biennium – the first meaningful reduction in the UN budget since the 1990’s and just the second in 50 years.
When it comes to advancing U.S. interests, standing up for our values, and reforming the UN, the results prove the U.S. is most effective when we roll up our sleeves, participate constructively, pay our bills, build diverse coalitions, and lead with principle and purpose. That’s what the Obama Administration has done consistently for the last four years. Thus, today, America is stronger and more respected. The American people are safer. And, the American relationship with the UN is healthier.
I look forward to the United States building on this progress for years to come.
Cross posted from IIP Digital, Bureau of International Information Programs.