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State’s Brimmer: U.S. Goals for U.N. General Assembly
September 19, 2011

Assistant Secretary Esther Brimmer. (Photo archive)

15 September 2011

Office of the Spokesperson
September 15, 2011


Assistant Secretary for International Organizations Affairs Esther Brimmer

On The United Nations General Assembly

September 15, 2011
Washington, D.C.

MR. TONER:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Just to get started before you get me, we just thought it would be useful to have Assistant Secretary for International Organizations Esther Brimmer come down here and walk you through what’s known in terms of the schedule for next week, what some of the goals and objectives are heading in to the UN General Assembly.

So without further ado, I’ll hand it over to Esther.  Thank you so much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BRIMMER:  Thank you very much.  I welcome today’s opportunity to outline the Administration’s goals and priorities for this year’s United Nations General Assembly as an opportunity to reemphasize the U.S. commitment to constructive engagement across the UN system.  And although you can appreciate that much of this is still in flux, the Secretary’s schedule for next week will continue to shift, I will be able to highlight a few of her key events next week.

But first I’d like to step back and emphasize a few points about this Administration’s approach to the United Nations.  As you know, for more than two years now, we have prioritized constructive engagement at the UN system and all parts of the UN system, because we appreciate the need for cooperation to address some of our most pressing foreign policy issues.  It’s a very different approach than the previous administration, but I would suggest that the undeniable record since 2009 validates the benefits to Americans of these efforts.

For example:  robust international response in Libya, including an unprecedented mandate to intervene to protect civilians and prevent atrocities; strong, broad and global cooperation to combat nuclear proliferation, including tough sanctions against Iran and North Korea; increasing pressure on the Asad regime by working through the Security Council and the Human Rights Council to amplify the chorus of international condemnation and to take the first steps towards international accountability for the deplorable and deteriorating human rights situation in Syria; and support for lifesaving humanitarian assistance at the UN’s myriad agencies that they provide across the world, whether in Haiti, Pakistan, or now in Somalia, or the Horn of Africa where famine is threatening millions.

And I would suggest that U.S. engagement has led to a marked improvement at the Human Rights Council, which has taken on pressing human rights challenges worldwide, including confronting outrageous violations of human dignity in Syria and Libya, and embracing gay, lesbian, transgender rights as human rights.

Given this record of achievement, it is certainly disappointing to again hear calls in the United States for disengagement from the United Nations or for withholding UN dues.  As we have said repeatedly, not only do these short-term tactics not work; worse, they have long-term consequences for our influence and leadership in the United Nations, and would hurt our ability to achieve our policy goals as well as much-needed UN management reforms.

So in short, U.S. engagement at the United Nations has enhanced our national security and advanced core American values and maintained global institutions and infrastructure on which our 21st century economy depends.  And each of these benefits, as well as some of the challenges, will be on display next week in New York.

Now, without getting into all the intricacies of all the different things we’ll be doing next week, suffice it to say that the U.S. approach will reinforce our commitment to constructive engagement at the United Nations.  Broadly speaking, we’ll be working to help the UN improve its tools to counter threats to international peace and security, to promote human rights and democracy and good governance, and to address global health, particularly non-communicable diseases, and to strengthen UN institutions to better take on these and other challenges of the 21st century.

So moving to the schedule for next week, I’ll highlight some of the high-level events.

We start off with the High-Level Event on Non-Communicable Diseases on Monday and Tuesday.  Now, I know a lot of the headlines this week and next week will probably not focus on this area, but it’s an incredibly important one for Americans and people around the globe.  The scale of the public health challenge posed globally by non-communicable diseases – things like cancer, respiratory disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease – is huge.  These diseases kill 35 million people every year.  And this session will provide an important opportunity to bring together governments, UN agencies, civil society, the private sector, and others to map out how the international community could address these diseases and ease some of the burdens on people and on economies around the globe.

Turning to the Secretary’s schedule, and repeating that of course this is still in flux and so we will continue to give you updates as we get them, but I can outline a few key events for you.

On Monday, her first public event will be a special program for key players on Haiti, followed by a large event on gender and food security, and promoting the essential role women can play and must play in agricultural development.  She will also appear at a high-level event on women’s political participation hosted by UN women.  And I know I don’t need to emphasize the long-term commitment the Secretary has had to these issues.

And also while she’s in New York, she’ll have a chance to visit the new United States Mission to United Nations New York on First Avenue.

On Tuesday the 20th, the Secretary will attend the Friends of Libya event in the morning.  Now, this is the latest opportunity for the international community to have a closer cooperation with the Libyan people to reinforce international support to the Libyans and the commitment to Libya’s democratic transition.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Secretary will speak at a High-Level Meeting on Nutrition and the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement.  Now, this is linked to the first Millennium Development Goal, namely eradicating poverty and hunger.

Afterward, she will have a hand in the launch of the Open Government Partnership.  Now, this initiative, as you’ll recall, was launched by the President at last year’s General Assembly and this year will bring together governments and civil society to commit to promote transparency, fight corruption, and enhance civic participation in government.  And as this year’s co-chairs of the Open Government Partnership International Steering Committee, the United States and Brazil will co-host this event.

On Wednesday, the Secretary, of course, will attend President Obama’s speech at the General Assembly and will join him for a series of bilateral meetings throughout the rest of the day.

But on Thursday, Secretary Clinton will help launch the new Global Counterterrorism Forum.  This will bring together traditional allies, emerging powers, and Muslim-majority countries to address terror threats through a variety of new programs.

She will also co-chair a ministerial event with the German Foreign Minister Westerwelle on The New Silk Road, which works towards a more stable and secure future for Afghanistan.  She will also meet with European Union foreign ministers and will close the day with the Annual Transatlantic Dinner with the European Union and NATO foreign ministers.

And on Friday, she will have two special meetings, one on Somalia and also looking at nuclear safety issues that week.

So that’s all we can share as of now.  Now, obviously, as we get more details, we will let you know.  But the main message is that the United States remains committed to working in the United Nations and to robust multilateral diplomacy.  It’s going to be a busy week.  I look forward to seeing all of you in New York.

Thank you.