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Ambassador Power at a Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Under-Secretary-General Feltman, for your excellent briefing. I will focus today on three topics: Syria, Lebanon and Middle East peace.

On September 27, this Council confirmed that the use of chemical weapons anywhere is a threat to international peace and security. In so doing, the Council fulfilled its role as a guardian of global stability by voting unanimously to require the expeditious and total destruction of Syria’s deadly chemical weapons program. This welcome vote was a necessary response to the Syrian government’s ruthless and repeated use of chemical weapons against its own people. But to have meaning, the resolution must be implemented immediately and with great rigor.

Under the joint leadership of the UN and OPCW, implementation has already begun. I commend the brave men and women of both organizations for their courage and professional dedication; and welcome the appointment of Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag. Make no mistake, what we are attempting is without precedent. Never before have international experts been asked to locate, secure and destroy a vast quantity of nerve agents, toxins and other chemical arms in a country torn apart by conflict.

The responsibility for complying with Resolution 2118 rests with Syria’s leadership, which built these weapons of mass destruction; then lied about them; then used them; then promised – under international pressure – to cooperate in eliminating them.

The Secretary General has aptly pointed out that a red light for one form of weapon does not mean a green light for others. The vast majority of the human carnage in Syria has been – and continues to be – inflicted by government bombs, mortars, shells and bullets. As innocent people continue to be targeted, the country is disintegrating. This has devastating human consequences and its effects are spreading across the region.
 

My government believes that the only viable way to end the horrific violence in Syria is through a political transition based on the Geneva Action Group Communiqué, which calls for a transitional governing body with full executive powers, chosen by mutual consent. As President Obama and Secretary Kerry have consistently stated, given the role of the present regime in monstrous crimes these last two-and-a-half years, Assad has no part to play in a political transition. The United States supports the consultative efforts now being made by Joint Special Representative Brahimi and will continue consultations of our own with, among others, Mr. Brahimi, Russia, the London 11, and the Syrian opposition, so that the Geneva II conference can be convened urgently.
 

It is imperative to make diplomatic progress, and it is beyond urgent to take additional steps to relieve suffering both inside Syria and among the more than two million Syrians who have sought refuge in neighboring countries. The United States strongly endorsed the Council’s recent presidential statement demanding secure passage for humanitarian relief. But statements alone are meaningless without changes in behavior on the ground. We on the Council must track progress, report any and all obstruction and press urgently for compliance with the basic standards enshrined in this PRST. Winter is fast approaching, and the despair of families across Syria is only growing worse. If I may, Mr. President, I would like to take this occasion to highlight two alarming and time-sensitive issues that warrant this council’s urgent attention.

First, in Mouadamiya, people have been under siege and without access to basic necessities for almost one full year. We have credible reports that residents are eating leaves of trees, and people have died of malnutrition-related causes. The regime continues to trap an estimated 12,000 people, of whom 7,000 are women and children. They are begging us – this week in fact – begging us to save them from death. All parties must allow humanitarian agencies unhindered access to evacuate the remaining civilians and deliver life-saving treatment and supplies in this area. The parties have to respect their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian laws to protect civilians and to allow the safe access of neutral, impartial humanitarian organizations to all people in need. The situation again, is urgent.

The second issue is the daily assault on medical neutrality. This conflict is going to be remembered even 100 years from now for the obliteration of this core principle; this core principle of medical neutrality. According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria’s recent report, “The denial of medical care as a weapon of war is a distinct and chilling reality of the war…government forces have engaged in agonizing cruelty against the sick and wounded.” The attacks against medical facilities and on those requiring treatment is barbaric and must halt immediately. The provision of emergency help and needed medical equipment should not be subject to any sort of a political litmus test. People in dire need should be helped, regardless of their sect or where they come from in Syria
 

The Syrian healthcare system is shattered. The World Health Organization reports that as of June, in Raqqa, Deir el-Zour and Homs, more than 70 percent of health centers have been damaged or are out of service. Nearly 40 percent of the 1,724 primary health care centers across the country are either badly damaged or completely closed.

Worse, nearly 70 percent of Syria’s health professionals – up to 80,000 – have fled the country, according to WHO. And some of you have seen the statistic that of the 5000 doctors in Aleppo before the war, 36 remain. 36. Many governorates now lack qualified medical expertise for trauma, anesthesia and specialized laboratory personnel. In two northern governorates, there is hardly any female staff available to cope with reproductive health emergencies or to respond to gender-based violence. The regime must immediately lift any bureaucratic blocks on the delivery of urgently needed medical aid and cease targeting medical workers. Non-state actors too must respect medical neutrality and facilitate access. So, in closing, we appeal urgently to Council members to pressure the regime, those who have influence with the regime, to pressure the regime to fulfill its obligations under international humanitarian law as it relates to medical neutrality. The United States will continue to urge opposition groups to facilitate medical access in areas under their control. For the sake of the Syrian people, and the sake of the sanctity of medical neutrality everywhere, we have to do more to address this problem.

Mr. President, Lebanon is among the neighboring countries most affected by the Syrian civil war. Because of the nature of that conflict, and because of the influx of refugees, Lebanon faces enormous humanitarian, economic, and security challenges. More than one-fifth of the population of Lebanon is now refugees from Syria.

The recent meeting in New York of the International Support Group for Lebanon demonstrated that the permanent members of this Council, the European Union, the Arab League, the UN, and other international institutions share a common agenda in support of Lebanon as it faces current challenges and promotes a policy of disassociation from the Syrian conflict. At that meeting, Secretary Kerry announced that the United States will contribute an additional $30 million to help Lebanese communities cope with the rising demand for public services, including those related to infrastructure, education and health. This is in addition to the $74 million in new humanitarian assistance, which is Lebanon’s share of the $340 million in refugee-related aid announced by President Obama during his visit to the UN General Assembly.

My government commends Lebanon’s cooperation with the World Bank and UN in developing a plan to address its heightened needs. We look forward to reviewing that plan, and we hope it will provide a firm basis – along with relevant Security Council resolutions including 1701 – for further internationally-supported efforts to maintain Lebanon’s political progress, security, social cohesion and economic well-being. In the meantime, we call on the international community to help reduce the extraordinary burdens that Lebanon – through no fault of its own – has been compelled to bear.

Turning to, finally, the ongoing negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas made clear in front of the General Assembly their commitment to reaching an enduring peace agreement that ends their conflict. President Obama, Secretary Kerry and Special Envoy Martin Indyk remain deeply engaged in achieving a final status accord within the nine-month timeframe set for the negotiations. Additionally, the international community continues to demonstrate strong support for the peace process, most recently through several events on the margins of the UN General Assembly, including the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee and Quartet Principals meetings, as well as the Special Meeting of UNRWA Supporters event, which conveyed continued support for the Agency and its mission.

As a complement to the political track, international support for the Palestinian economy and the Palestinian Authority is crucial. We also recognize the need to address the humanitarian needs of the civilian population in Gaza and wish to highlight the continued efforts we are making to promote economic development in both the West Bank and Gaza, including more than $348 million in debt relief for the Palestinian Authority that the United States has provided just this year. Private sector debt relief and direct budget support to the Palestinian Authority are vital, and we encourage donors to meet their existing commitments and provide additional support. To stimulate short-term economic growth, we’ve worked with the PA to encourage immediate investment in high-impact micro-infrastructure projects in the West Bank, and the United States has provided $25 million in funding for these projects.

The United States condemns in the strongest terms any calls for violence. We are especially concerned about the recent discovery of “attack tunnels” emanating from Gaza into Israel. In addition, we remain concerned about ongoing incidents of violence in the West Bank as well as recent clashes around holy sites in Jerusalem; we stress the importance of maintaining calm in these sensitive places.

We urge restraint on the part of all sides, and call upon all parties to avoid taking actions that undermine final status negotiations. Following the bold lead of both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, it is essential that we all work to build the trust and confidence necessary for a lasting peace.

Thank you, Mr. President.

- Cross posted from U.S. Mission to the UN

 


UPR 17th Session – Intervention for Nigeria

Learn more about the Universal Periodic Review, and see other interventions on the UPR 17th Session page.

AS DELIVERED by Foreign Service Officer, Miriam Schive

The United States welcomes the Nigerian delegation.

We commend Nigeria and President Jonathan for strengthening the National Human Rights Commission and supporting the Independent National Electoral Commission and its electoral reform efforts.

We condemn Boko Haram’s horrific attacks on Nigerians, including members of the public and the government. We are also concerned by reports of Nigerian security forces perpetrating serious human rights violations in their counter-insurgency efforts, particularly against those detained in state custody, and we urge Nigeria to respect human rights in any security response.

We are disappointed by Nigeria’s statement, in response to the recommendations from its first UPR, that LGBT persons “are not visible in Nigeria.”

We also remain concerned that Nigerian law and practice do not meet ILO standards on freedom of association, including a legislatively imposed trade union monopoly.

We recommend Nigeria:

  1. Hold security forces accountable for human rights violations, and establish a system for human rights monitoring to promote accountability for gross violations of human rights;
  2. Establish policies and procedures that protect the human rights and security of all Nigerians, including LGBT persons, their families and associates;
  3. Amend the Trade Union Act in order to guarantee freedom of association and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
 


U.S. Remarks at the Second Committee Meeting: Item 16 Information and Communications Technologies for Development

Mr. Chairman, the United States continues to work, both inside and outside the UN system, to follow through on its commitments from the World Summit on the Information Society. We appreciate the work of all stakeholders that makes available the benefits of science, engineering, and new technologies, especially information and communications technologies, to bridge the digital divide and to ensure that the dynamism of ICTs continues to be a force for economic growth and development. We have listened with particular interest to the statements of developing countries on the role of ICTs in this regard.

To build global knowledge societies, we must work to promote the free exchange of information and ideas among people. At the same time, we must resist efforts to erect new barriers and restrict the dynamic potential of the free flow of information. A network is only as strong as its users and their ability to connect with one another.

Governments have an important voice in these discussions – but so do civil society groups, academia, the private sector, and the Internet technical community. Those voices multiply the Internet’s great potential, and if we are to achieve the goals we set out at WSIS, we must ensure that they continue to be heard. To this end, let me reiterate the United States’ unwavering commitment to an Internet governance model that is people-centered, multi-stakeholder, and transparent.

The 8th annual Internet Governance Forum is taking place in Bali, Indonesia this week. The United States believes the IGF is an optimal setting for Internet governance discussions due to its inclusiveness – allowing governments, industry, civil society, and the technical community to address Internet issues in a broad, creative, and collaborative manner. We commend this body for renewing the mandate of the IGF and express our support for its continued success.

Last year, the ICT for Development Resolution called for a working group on enhanced cooperation. We express our support for the important work this group is undertaking and look forward to receiving its recommendations next year.

Continuing to measure and assess progress toward meeting WSIS goals remains an important and ongoing process led by many key UN organizations and all the stakeholders that make the global ICT infrastructure a reality. Progress made on WSIS Action Lines is one of the many major inputs to the discussions of the post-2015 development agenda.

In July, ECOSOC approved a new Resolution (E/RES/2013/9) that directed the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development to perform three related tasks:

  • First, collect inputs from all facilitators and stakeholders and provide its annual progress report to ECOSOC and UNGA;
  • Second, organize a substantive discussion during its 17th Session in May 2014 on the progress made in the implementation of the WSIS outcomes;
  • Third, submit after its 18th Session in May 2015 a more comprehensive ten-year review of progress made in the implementation of WSIS outcomes through ECOSOC to the General Assembly as it makes an overall review of the implementation of WSIS outcomes in 2015.

The United States has provided funding to CSTD to support the WSIS review process. As current CSTD chair, the US will host the intersessional meeting of CSTD in Washington on December 2-4, 2013, to prepare for the 17th Session in May 2014. The United States supports the important work of the UN and its specialized agencies and programs, including UNESCO, ITU and UNCTAD, in facilitating implementation and follow-up on the WSIS Action Lines in a manner consistent with their mandates and competencies. The active participation of a myriad of multi-stakeholder entities and collaborative efforts are vital for making progress in implementing WSIS Action Lines. We encourage all member nations and stakeholders to continue to contribute substantively to this important process, and we look forward to the 2015 CSTD report to the General Assembly.

Mr. Chairman, the United States will continue its work with our partners—governments, private industry, universities, and civil society—to ensure that the global Internet remains open, interoperable, secure, and free from arbitrary government interference.

In light of recent press reports regarding alleged U.S. intelligence activities, we want to assure you that U.S. takes the concerns of the international community seriously, that we are reviewing our practices, as President Obama said last month at the UN, and that our longstanding policies on privacy, human rights, and Internet governance have not changed. We come to this Committee and to the Internet Governance Forum, as we do every year, to stand by our commitment to an open, interoperable, and secure cyberspace.

The international community and all our peoples are best served if governments, through the WSIS+10 review process, continue to focus their attention on the essential challenges that launched the WSIS in the first place: closing the digital divide and helping the many who are still waiting to reap the development benefits of ICTs and the Internet.

- Cross posted from U.S. Mission to the UN

 


Opening Remarks by U.S. at the 2013 Internet Governance Forum

Good afternoon everyone. It is a pleasure for me to be here with you today. The United States would like to thank the IGF Secretariat and the Multistakeholder Advisory Group for organizing our week together in Bali. And of course, we thank our gracious Indonesian hosts.

The United States deeply values being a part of the IGF community. That is why this year the U.S. Government made a significant donation to the IGF Trust Fund, a contribution of $350,000, demonstrating our commitment to this institution and its continued vitality.

The architects of the Internet built it as an open, inclusive platform. As a result, the Internet today is no more one country’s than another’s; it is no more any one stakeholder’s than another’s.

Having grown in a manner unprecedented in the history of communications, the Internet is serving as a springboard for human development worldwide, a springboard that grows economies, enables democratic discourse, broadens opportunities, and launches innovation.

The question for us at this IGF is how do we embrace that accomplishment and continue to advance?

The United States welcomes this discussion. We support an open dialogue on the modernization and evolution of the multi-stakeholder system that enables the operation of the global Internet. Bottom-up, inclusive, cooperative efforts to empower users and further enable innovation free from arbitrary intergovernmental control are what the U.S. has called for all along. And we believe that the proper response to concerns related to the Internet’s development, from bridging the remaining digital divide to protecting children online to developing best practices for securing networks, lies in the cooperative work between and within the multi-stakeholder institutions that its founders empowered.

The Internet’s universal deployment will depend on us encouraging and enabling private investment in technology and infrastructure that will drive down the cost of access.

To demonstrate our commitment to affordable Internet access for everyone, the United States government proposed and worked with a variety of stakeholders to launch the creation of the Alliance for Affordable Internet, a coalition of nearly 30 partners from private sector, public sector, and civil society organizations. This multinational, multi-stakeholder coalition stands together in its aim to provide affordable Internet access in developing countries. We also operate the Global Broadband Initiative out of USAID which is working with countries to develop universal service programs and national broadband plans. And, the private sector is investing heavily in wireless solutions to bridge the world’s remaining digital divide. There is always more to be done, and collectively, we should. But we think these efforts are positive contributions to these very real challenges.

Separately, the leaders of the Internet’s multi-stakeholder governing organizations have renewed calls to modernize the Internet’s governing system and make it more inclusive. Their recent statement from Montevideo should be seen as an opportunity to seek that broad inclusion and for organizing multistakeholder responses to Internet issues that do not have a home today. And we must work together with them in good faith on these important issues. I think we can and all should agree that this effort cannot be used or manipulated in a way that centralizes power over the Internet in the hands of any one stakeholder.

We should guard against recent arguments for centralized intergovernmental control of the Internet that have used recent news stories about intelligence programs for justification. I can assure you that the United States government takes the concerns many of you have expressed regarding the recent NSA disclosures very seriously, and I certainly understand the desire to raise related issues here. As with all difficult issues we have discussed in this forum over the years, let us remain good stewards of the Internet. As we mark the opening of the IGF, let us use this time together to construct solutions to the digital divide. Let us work cooperatively to improve the trust, confidence, and security of our networks. Let us continue promoting an open Internet that can serve as a platform for innovation and job growth.

Let us think creatively to bring more developing country stakeholders to the tables of our multi-stakeholder Internet institutions. And let us grow and evolve together. After all, that’s what has brought us here today – a common appreciation for the good that the Internet has enabled and an interest in the future of the Internet to perpetuate those benefits and brings them to all corners of the globe. So let’s continue in the spirit of the IGF to work together and engage in robust and candid discussions here this week, capture them in a way that is useful for each of us as we take the next steps, and ensure that we make the most of this compelling opportunity.

- Cross posted from state.gov

 


UPR 17th Session – Intervention for China

Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Uzra Zeya delivers the U.S. recommendations for China at the 17th UPR Session 10/22/13
The United States welcomes the Chinese delegation.

We recommend China:

  1. End the use of harassment, detention, arrest, and extralegal measures such as enforced disappearance to control and silence human rights activists as well as their family members and friends;
  2. Protect the rights of ethnic minority groups, including Tibetans, Uighurs, and Mongolians, in accordance with China’s Constitution and international human rights commitments;
  3. Reform its administrative justice system, including by eliminating “reeducation through labor,” and ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We are concerned that China suppresses freedoms of assembly, association, religion, and expression, including on the Internet; harasses, detains, and punishes activists, including Xu Zhiyong and Yang Maodong; targets rights defenders’ family members and friends; and implements policies that undermine the human rights of ethnic minorities.

Thank you.

 


Universal Periodic Review – 17th UPR Session

The United States believes the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) has the potential to effect real change in countries throughout the world. The UPR is not just something that occurs in Geneva every four and half years. It is an ongoing, daily tool to advance human rights. Our interventions to other countries are crafted with the goal of providing useful, targeted recommendations that, when implemented, will create positive change for society.

The 17th UPR is occurring from Monday, October 21 – November 1. Please see below for our interventions to the 15 countries participating in Session 17.

Each link below will become active once its intervention is available.

 
 

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