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U.S. Engagement at the UN: A Smart Investment
September 23, 2011

Dr. Esther Brimmer serves as the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs

The following is reprinted from DipNote – the Official Blog of the U.S. State Department

By Esther Brimmer
September 23, 2011

For a few minutes Friday morning, I managed to sneak away from this year’s UN General Assembly — better known as UNGA — to officially ring the NASDAQ Market opening bell in New York’s Time Square.

As unexpected as the invitation to ring the bell may have been, as soon as we considered the offer it seemed to make perfect sense. The NASDAQ OMX Group is the world’s largest global exchange company with stock markets around the world. Here in the United States, NASDAQ is often associated with younger companies heavily invested in new technologies and on-line businesses.

So, NASDAQ companies know better than most that in such a modern, interconnected world, effective solutions require integrated, global approaches. And essentially, that’s what we are working on at the UN; we are trying to leverage emerging networks, forge new alliances, revitalize existing coalitions and somehow, to some degree, confront the great challenges of our day — everything from national security to environmental security, economic health to famine relief.

But my message at the NASDAQ opening bell ceremony was, admittedly, a bit less…idealistic. The point I made there, in the heart of the America’s financial capital, was quite simple: our engagement at the UN is remarkably profitable and makes enormous sense for American businesses and the workers they employ.

Now, there’s a long list of reasons why, but I was only given 90 seconds to make my case at the official ceremony so I had to limit myself to three core arguments:

First, the UN helps sustain the global economic landscape that U.S. companies depend on. UN offices help protect American patents and intellectual property around the world. UN agencies promote global standards for things like international shipping, civil aviation, telecommunications, and postal services. Basically, if you’re an American company doing business across borders, odds are, you’re benefiting from the work the United States does in the UN.

Second, the UN spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year procuring goods and services from American companies. They spend more money here than in any other country in the world — more than $1.5 billion dollars last year alone. So, American companies in places like Texas, Florida, New Jersey, and elsewhere know that the UN is a significant source of income and jobs for small, medium, and large U.S. companies.

Third, the UN is a boost for New York’s economy. Aside from the thousands of diplomats and UN staff, the UN brings in hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. That means billions of dollars for local hotels, restaurants, and other businesses.

Basically, my point at NASDAQ this morning was the time and money we put into the UN — regardless of the broader contributions to our national health and security — comes right back to us when the UN buys American goods and services. Bottom line: American engagement at the UN is, among other things, a great investment in American businesses and helps create jobs for American workers. That’s a very fair exchange.
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