U.S. Statement at the Universal Periodic Review of Syria, 12th Session
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the Syrian government’s gross violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its people and its continued violent and deadly repression of peaceful protests.
The Syrian national report touts its human rights record and states that its people enjoy fundamental rights and legal protections, but for over four decades, Syrian security forces have operated with impunity, directed by unaccountable dictators, immunized by unjust laws and protected by a politicized judiciary. The Syrian people remain unable to achieve their aspirations or enjoy universal human rights despite more recently announced reforms that have no purpose except to provide cover for the government’s continued atrocities.
The Syrian government responded to peaceful protests by killing over 2,900 civilians in the past seven months in military and security operations, using tanks and heavy weapons. The Syrian national report states that freedom is a sacred right guaranteed by the constitution but even as we speak, the Syrian people continue to suffer mass arrests, arbitrary detentions, torture and targeted killing of civilians. A government that fails to respect the will of its people, denies the fundamental rights of its citizens, and chooses to rule through terror and intimidation, cannot be considered legitimate and must step aside immediately.
Bearing this in mind, the United States has the following recommendations:
1. Immediately end violations of international human rights law, including violent reprisals against peaceful protestors, political activists and their families;
2. Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience;
3. Expeditiously permit international humanitarian missions, human rights observers and media unrestricted access within Syria, including the HRC Commission of Inquiry; and
4. Allow a Syrian-led transition to take place that will initiate change in laws and lead to the formation of an inclusive and representative government that adheres to the rule of law and upholds the rights of members of religious and ethnic minorities.
Ambassador Betty E. King
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva
Fleet Forum Conference
Good morning distinguished guests and members. Let me begin by thanking the Fleet Forum for hosting me at the 2011 annual conference. I am delighted to have this opportunity to address a group of representatives assembled from such a wide array of organizations across the globe who share a commitment to the critical of delivering humanitarian assistance or enabling those who do. I want to begin, also, by thanking all of you — on behalf of the People of the United States of America — for your efforts and your personal sacrifices in those endeavors. These efforts reflect your commitment to the dignity and potential of every human being – a commitment that is shared by the government and the people of the United States.
It is because of that commitment that I am here today. We recognize that HOW you deliver humanitarian aid is as important as WHAT you deliver to those receiving that aid. Rigorous procedures to evaluate impact and the use of those evaluations to inform decisions are just as important in fleet management as they are with humanitarian aid itself – indeed they have a mutual reliance on each other. I congratulate all of you for your interest and participation in the Fleet Forum’s efforts to improve the operational efficiency of the vehicles that make delivery of humanitarian aid possible, and I would like to specifically address three important US government objectives in fleet management: safety, economic efficiency and environmental efficiency.
Delivery of humanitarian aid in challenging environments is fraught with risks. Road traffic is probably one of the highest risks, but it is one over which we have some control, yet vehicular accidents are the single largest occupational health and safety risk for field staff and for ordinary citizens who rely on often overcrowded roads for transportation. Delivery of humanitarian aid is expensive, representing one of the highest overhead costs of any aspect of an organization, so any improvements in the efficiency of delivery optimizes the use of donor funds. Moreover, environmental efficiency in the delivery of aid provides opportunities for all of us to implement the newest technologies to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
Addressing these three challenges: safety, economic efficiency and environmental efficiency is of strategic importance to the US government and should be for all of us. Humanitarian aid vehicles – with their prominent logos – are quite visible on the ground thus providing both opportunities and incentives for you to lead by example.
As entities that provide public service, whether a governmental entity or an aid organization, our methods will be–and should be–scrutinized. Respect for life is at the core of humanitarian relief work, and this must extend to SAFETY in delivery. As organizations implementing the aid from governments and other organizations, you are the face of international aid and vehicle fleets often figure prominently in that interaction.
President Obama has recognized that the operation of our fleets provides opportunities to serve as exemplars of safety. In 2009, he prohibited any driver of a U.S. Federal vehicle from texting while driving. Since then, the ban has served as an anchor for U.S. efforts to educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving. Many local jurisdictions in the United States followed suit and implemented their own distracted driving laws. I therefore encourage each organization here to prioritize efforts to maximize the safety of your fleets through driver training, fleet maintenance and proactive policies.
In terms of ECONOMIC EFFICIENCY, I recognize that there are complex considerations involved in the practical work of delivering your services and the astounding amount of resources that are required to do so. I also realize that many of you are accountable to donors to deliver value for money and to spend your funding wisely. These are challenges that we all share. The U.S. government, like governments everywhere, is accountable to its taxpayers. For example, Oklahoma City spends ten million US dollars, annually, to replace old police and fire vehicles. Like many other local U.S. governments, Oklahoma City is faced with fewer and fewer resources to accomplish the same services its residents regard as crucial to the functioning of their community. Public fleets like the one in Oklahoma City, are increasingly forced by these circumstances to take a careful look at HOW they are using their vehicles to deliver, so that they don’t have to eliminate those services. It is what citizens and taxpayers expect during these difficult economic times. Conducting studies to right-size fleets, finding innovative ways to save fuel, and leveraging technology are adding up to large savings for the U.S. taxpayer, which can then be reinvested into providing critical services.
And thirdly, I would like to speak to ENVIRONMENTAL EFFICIENCY. Fortunately, economists and scientists are showing us that in the years to come the best economic efficiencies will be those that take advantage of new technologies like hybrid and electric vehicles. Consequently, President Obama mandated that the U.S. Federal Government must lead by example to create a clean energy economy to safeguard the health of our environment, to increase the use of alternative fuels and to employ petroleum reduction strategies. That order expressly required that the U.S. Federal fleet of over 600,000 vehicles be replaced as they age with electric vehicles or those adhering to stringent emissions guidelines. For example, one county in Florida implemented a new technology on their heavy trucks that continuously purified their oil systems, thereby reducing the need for oil changes. That combined with regular oil sampling and checks– a simple process that requires no tools–projects a savings of 1.5 million US dollars over the life of that county’s fleet. Here in Geneva, we are proud to include several hybrid vehicles in our Mission’s fleet as well as a number of electric bicycles that our staff use. Environmental efficiency is a winning strategy as it encourages creative, sustainable and long-term solutions.
I am pleased that I could share with you these examples of the goals to which we aspire as we look at our fleets and the management of those fleets that we support globally to provide essential humanitarian assistance. I am encouraged that the dialogue here at the Fleet Forum is focusing on how all of us can put good practices in place. I assure you that allocating attention and resources to safety, and efficiencies – economic and environmental – will yield the greatest impact and the effective delivery of humanitarian aid.
Good luck and keep up the good work.