Ambassador Rice at U.N. Debate on Global Security Threats

Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice,
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations,
At a Security Council Open Debate on Threats to International Security: Securing Borders Against Illicit Flows.

New York,

April 25, 2012

As delivered

I want to begin by thanking the Secretary General for his important statement and for his participation in today’s open event. I wish to thank Council colleagues as well for their thoughtful contributions to today’s event and the preparations for it.

In our interconnected world, our system of collective security is only as strong as the weakest links in the chain.  One of those weak links today is the poorly secured borders that are exploited for the illicit transfer of arms and drugs; of materials for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; of terrorists and their funds; of conflict minerals; and even of human beings – a modern day form of slavery.  Such illicit transfers across borders increasingly undermine the sovereignty and internal stability of member states and can threaten international peace and security. The dangers posed by these transfers are not limited to fragile or particularly vulnerable states. They affect us all.

The Security Council has often addressed these transfers individually, in specific regional contexts.  For example, we have examined how illicit arms transfers have exacerbated instability in the Sahel and fueled longstanding conflict in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  We have seen how arms smuggling from Iran – in violation of UN sanctions – exacerbates conflict in the Middle East and supports terrorist groups worldwide.  We have also discussed how drug trafficking has directly contributed to internal disorder in Guinea-Bissau.

These are just a few examples. The Security Council has been involved in the question of illicit trafficking and movement for a long time. But we have tended to look at each item trafficked in isolation of the common feature they share: the vulnerabilities at poorly secured borders that are too easily exploited by nefarious networks.

States already understand very well how important it is to control their borders and often ask for international assistance in doing so. States recognize their self interest in protecting their territory and people from these interrelated phenomena that threaten their sovereignty, corrode governing institutions and undermine internal security. States additionally have international obligations – including those derived from Chapter VII of the UN Charter, including UN sanctions – that require them to intercept or control contraband. There are already significant bilateral, multilateral and regional efforts underway to help states defend their borders, and these efforts should be supported and encouraged.  But today we focus on the UN’s operational capacity.

We believe that the United Nations system could improve its help to states to secure their borders and to put in place related intelligence and law enforcement cooperation, customs standards, and administrative and legal frameworks.  This is why we have convened this debate today.

Many elements of the UN system – as well as national, regional and other multilateral organizations – are already doing excellent work to assist states to protect their borders and implement their relevant international obligations.  In response to requests from member states, organizations as diverse as Interpol, UNODC, the World Customs Organization, UN peacekeeping missions, and the IAEA provide such assistance.  Also doing this work are a number of Council-created bodies such as the 1540 Committee, the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate and our Sanctions Committees and their expert panels.  The United States fully supports all these efforts.  We are also committed to helping fund efforts by the UN’s Counter Terrorism Implementation Task Force Working Group on Border Management to enhance international, regional and national policy and practice relating to border management in the context of countering terrorism.

These bodies are all doing important work, but because they are so narrowly focused on specific threats, they may be unaware of overlapping efforts or miss opportunities to pool knowledge and expertise.  After all, these different bodies are often evaluating the same state institutions and legislative frameworks, providing similar technical advice, and appealing to the same pool of donors for assistance.  Put simply, they are all working on different aspects of the same problem: how to help states that want it and need it to better secure and control the flow of illicit goods across their borders. Surely, there is scope to streamline and strengthen the UN’s capacity to help states secure their borders, while realizing efficiencies in the process.  The Security Council can make an important contribution to this effort, but it is vital that the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and other UN bodies continue to remain fully engaged as well. This complex, cross-cutting challenge cannot be tackled effectively by any single body alone. Many UN actors play a role in these capacity-building efforts, and it is logical that they work better together – as one UN system – to assist member states.

We therefore welcome the Security Council’s request to the Secretary-General to provide a diagnostic assessment of these efforts.  The Security Council needs a birds-eye view of them across the UN system. The U.S. hopes the Secretary-General’s report will also offer any proposals as appropriate for improvement. By helping member states to secure their borders, this Council can respond to and, we hope help, prevent these evolving threats to international peace and security. With this goal in mind, we look forward to revisiting this issue in six months and to taking effective action.

Thank you.