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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Citizens for Global Solutions: 2010 Annual Meeting

Esther Brimmer
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organization Affairs
Washington, DC
May 21, 2010


I want to thank Don Kraus and David Shorr for that wonderful introduction. I am honored to be here to participate in Citizens for Global Solutions Annual Meeting.

It is great to be with so many friends who are staunch advocates for multilateral diplomacy, global engagement and vocal supporters of international freedom, justice and peace. The Obama Administration deeply appreciates your unwavering commitment to these issues.

Even though Citizens for Global Solutions focuses on addressing critical international and multilateral issues, your real strength of purpose is derived, not externally, but from your diverse membership and through the actions of your local chapters and members across the United States.

While your voices may have different pitches, tones and accents your collective calls for action and progress are heard clearly in Washington, the United Nations and around the globe. When Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Actors are one family over the entire world,” she was referring to you -- citizens seeking global solutions to global problems.

President Obama has often spoken about the importance of change driven from the bottom up. For decades, Citizens for Global Solutions’ recipe for successful advocacy has been fueled by this approach. Your grassroots network is tireless, educating and lobbying local leaders and your neighbors, members of Congress and the Administration to solve the problems facing humanity and to build a better future both for our communities and for billions of people around the globe.

You understand the complex challenges the United States and the international community face in the 21st Century. You also instinctively understand that the United States cannot address global climate change, alleviate poverty, prevent genocide and mass atrocities, or stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons alone. We need strong and capable international partners and institutions, such as the United Nations, to work with us to address these difficult problems.

It was same line of thinking following the horrific bloodshed and carnage of World War II, that led the founders of the United World Federalists - which eventually became Citizens for Global Solutions to support the UN and greater American multilateral engagement.

It is precisely a policy of broader deeper engagement -- the implementation of smart power that President Obama and this Administration have pursued for the last sixteen months -- that has renewed America’s global leadership.

Advocating a vision of a common security, on the basis of mutual respect, bolstered by investments in our common humanity, this President, along with Secretary Clinton, have advanced our security interests, and sought the “cooperative effort of the entire world.”

At the United Nations and internationally, the President, Secretary Clinton and the Administration have built new bridges, strengthened existing ties and have fully embraced the fact that the United States does not and cannot stand separate from the world, but rather is embedded in it – economically, politically, and culturally.

The United States looks to work with the United Nations and global partners to address problems of international peace and security and to advance many of the President’s top priorities including: nuclear non-proliferation, genocide prevention and the protection of civilians.

As you know, early in his Administration, the President took the momentous decision, unveiled in Prague in April 2009, to press for the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. He determined that this goal cannot be reached in isolation; instead it must be achieved with the international community.

The President chose to work through the UN Security Council, where last September he became the first U.S. President to chair a session of the Council. This event also was the first UN Security Council Summit solely dedicated to Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament issues.

He led the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1887, which expressed grave concern about the continuing threat of nuclear proliferation, and called for concrete actions by all UN member states, not just the United States, to work toward a world without nuclear weapons, and endorsed a broad framework of actions to reduce global nuclear dangers.

Today, we are engaged in a multi-faceted effort to make the President’s vision a reality. We are determined to reach real nuclear weapons reductions, to keep our end of the bargain under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and to hold other governments accountable to their commitments:

We have signed the New START Treaty with Russia and are seeking U.S. Senate advice and consent to ratify;

We recently released a new Nuclear Posture Review which outlines how the United States will reduce the roles and number of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategic policy, and states the United States will not use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT that are in compliance with their nuclear nonproliferation obligations;

We plan to resubmit the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty for Senate advice and consent to ratify; and

We are working hard with all members of the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva to get the consensus required to start negotiations on a verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

We are also working to address issues directly related to terrorism and nuclear terrorism, a premier threat we face in the 21st Century.

In an effort to highlight this issue and to build greater international consensus on the nature of the threat and how to combat it, the President convened a Nuclear Security Summit in April that brought together 47 nations and three multilateral institutions, in Washington, to advance our goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world so that they never fall into the hands of terrorists.

Today, over 2,000 tons of plutonium and highly enriched uranium exist in dozens of countries, and we know that al-Qa’ida, and possibly other terrorist or criminal groups, are seeking nuclear weapons, as well as the materials and expertise needed to make them. The best way to keep terrorists and criminals from getting nuclear weapons is to keep all weapons, as well as the know-how to make and use them, secure. We must also bolster our ability to protect nuclear materials, detect smuggled nuclear materials, recover lost materials, identify the origin of any such material, and prosecute those who are trading in these materials.

The Nuclear Security Summit led to pledges of specific national actions that advance global security. For example, leaders in attendance renewed their commitment to ensuring that nuclear materials under their control are not stolen or diverted for use by terrorists, and pledged to take meaningful actions and practical solutions for doing so.

As we speak, the 190 members of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) are holding the Eighth NPT Review Conference to review and assess progress in implementing the NPT and consider how to strengthen the Treaty across all three of its “pillars”: nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. All NPT Parties have a responsibility to take steps to fulfill the objectives of the Treaty, and the United States is doing its part to strengthen the three pillars. At the NPT Review Conference General Debate on May 3, Secretary Clinton announced three new U.S. initiatives:

Increased transparency in U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile numbers;

Intention to seek U.S. Senate advice and consent to ratify the relevant protocols to the Africa and South Pacific Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaties; and

A Presidential initiative to raise $100 million to increase resources for the IAEA’s peaceful uses activities in the areas of health, food, water, and nuclear power infrastructure. The U.S. will contribute $50 million over five years to this campaign.

President Obama also believes that to make the world more secure and safe, it is essential to hold governments accountable for their actions, especially when they fail to live up to their Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and international obligations.

As the President said during his Nobel speech, “Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure—and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one.”

We are not breaking new ground today when we point to our concerns about North Korea and Iran, whose actions threaten regional and global stability. These governments must be held accountable, applicable treaties must be enforced, and UN sanctions must be rigorously implemented and enforced by Member States.

As you know, we are working in the Security Council to ensure that both Iran and North Korea meet their international obligations. Last June, following an announced North Korean nuclear test, the United States negotiated a unanimous Security Council resolution (resolution 1874) that condemned the nuclear test and strengthened sanctions on North Korea.

On Iran, given its repeated failure to live up to its own commitments, its continuing violations of its obligations under the UN Security Council Resolutions, the NPT and its IAEA Safeguards Agreement, and the need for Iran to address fundamental issues related to its nuclear program, the international community continues to have serious concerns.

The P5+1 have reached agreement on a strong draft resolution, which is now working its way through the UN Security Council. This resolution is a continuation of the dual track strategy of pressure and engagement set out in successive UN Security Council Resolutions, and we continue to call upon Iran to meet with the P5+1 to discuss the nuclear issue.

As I stated earlier, in order to address the most difficult challenges facing the United States and the international community, we must work together where we can, where we must.

One of the most difficult, complex and sober challenges facing any the international community is the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. This Administration is committed to trying to prevent and halt atrocities and wide-scale violence against civilians.

I know that atrocity prevention is a top priority for your organization. I also know you would agree that it is not enough to just say ‘never again’ – we need action.

We see extreme violence in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where hundreds of thousands continue to face conflict and displacement; where rape and other sexual and gender based violence is endemic; and where the UN struggles to prevent armed actors from committing atrocity crimes. In Sudan, we see an on-going humanitarian crisis where hundreds of thousands are displaced in Darfur and elsewhere.

I would like to address how the United States can bring focus to this issue.

First, we take the challenge seriously. The prevention of genocide and mass atrocities is not a theoretical issue. A decade into a new century, crises continue globally where too many families, woman and children threatened by violence and conflict fear for their lives and cannot sleep safely at night.

In his Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance speech President Obama spoke eloquently:

“Wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts; the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies, and failed states -- all these things have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today's wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sown, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed, children scarred.”

At the highest levels, the Obama Administration is looking at how our government can do better – and how multinational efforts at the United Nations can also play a role.

The Administration has raised the profile and importance of this issue throughout the government, making it a priority for U.S. agencies, separately and collectively, to recognize the vulnerability of civilian populations, the risks of mass atrocities, and the necessity to prevent genocide. Toward that end, I want to highlight the extraordinary work being done by Ambassador Stephen Rapp, the United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues.

The United States strongly supports the Responsibility to Protect. We were supporters in 2005 and remain so today. When the agreement was reached in 2005 it was historic. Nearly five years later we need to take concrete steps to turn the agreement into a basis for action. Today our practice lags behind our aspirations. This is a state of affairs we are determined to change.

Despite our efforts we know that there are serious gaps in our response and that of the international community. We know, for example, that response to ongoing atrocities and efforts to prevent genocide have been unsystematic, and difficult to sustain. The 2008 Genocide Prevention Task Force identified this gap, for example.

With the full recognition of past failures we have committed ourselves to examining what political, military, diplomatic and humanitarian measures are necessary for effective action on this issue.

Recognizing a clear imperative to undertake meaningful action now, we are working to prevent mass atrocity crimes through various channels:

As a member of the Security Council, we bring concerted international pressure to bear against perpetrators of violence – and provide humanitarian assistance and protection to refugees, internally displaced persons, civilians affected by conflict, and other vulnerable populations.

We support international tribunals to bring perpetrators to justice, advocate for binding international sanctions, and support efforts to rebuild post-conflict societies.

I want to take a moment to highlight that we are working with one of this conferences keynote speakers, Dr. Francis Deng, the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities.

At the United Nations, we have focused on looking hard at peacekeeping mandates in the Security Council and by supporting the development of guidance and capacity to back peacekeepers’ ability to protect civilians in the field.

We have highlighted the need for peacekeepers to protect civilians from gender and sexual-based violence.

We must also address one the most serious challenges facing the international community – sexual violence perpetrated against women and children. Earlier I mentioned the unconscionable number of rapes in the DRC. We have joined with the UN and international community in sending an unequivocal message to parties in the DRC and elsewhere: sexual violence against women and children in conflict will not be tolerated and must be stopped.

Last September, Secretary Clinton chaired a Security Council session and helped lead the unanimous approval of a US-sponsored resolution to strengthen protection of civilians from sexual violence in conflict.

Secretary Clinton spoke movingly from her personal experience visiting with the women and children of the Democratic Republic of Congo of the difficulties they face. The resolution championed practical ways to counter one of the most abhorrent features of modern war: the use of rape and sexual violence, as a weapon, against women and children. Further, it directed the Secretary-General to appoint the first-ever Special Representative to prevent sexual and gender based violence in conflict situations.

We know this is a difficult issue and we look forward to working hand in hand with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moons’ Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallstrom, to lead and coordinate efforts to end conflict-related sexual violence against women and children. The protection of civilians from sexual violence links to another priority area for the United States – the UN’s peacekeeping missions. Peace operations not only help shield civilian populations from violence, but they can help move fragile states toward a durable peace.

One of the Security Council’s greatest responsibilities is the creation of a peacekeeping mandate. Not only are UN peacekeepers the public face of the UN worldwide, as blue-helmeted soldiers and civilians, but they meet the call from the nations of the world for warring parties to end violence, engage in peaceful resolutions, and as necessary, protect civilians from the imminent threat of violence.

Today, the UN has more than 100,000 peacekeepers deployed, including troops, police and civilians, participating in 15 different missions. These peacekeepers, from 119 countries from across the globe, are working to end wars and prevent bloodshed -- opening the possibility to renewed hope and security to millions of people, where it previously did not exist.

Today, however, peacekeeping missions are overstretched, under stress and lack key capacities or at times struggle to meet their mandates. The work is hard, but it is indispensible. Peace operations has been identified by the President as a key security issue that merits enhanced and expanded attention on the UN and international stage.

A top priority for the Administration is to focus greater international efforts on helping peacekeeping missions develop great guidance, support mechanisms and strategies to protect civilians in their areas of operation. That is one reason we championed Security Council resolution 1894 on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, which directed the development of clear measures to help peacekeeping missions more effectively prevent and halt violence against civilians.

The President has taken bold steps to invigorate the debate at the UN regarding the next generation of UN peacekeeping. Last September, at the UN General Assembly, the President directly engaged leaders from top Troop-Contributing Countries to discuss means of strengthening peace operations and to listen to their views.

The Administration understands that it is not enough to support the deployment of UN peacekeeping troops; we must make certain that these missions have the proper resources, leadership, planning, and budget to accomplish our collective objectives.

In closing, over the past sixteen months, this Administration has employed an effective strategy to address core U.S. national security imperatives, an effective strategy that has reestablished American leadership on issues, where we lead by example.

We believe this effective strategy has resulted in new and stronger coalitions, greater global burden sharing, insuring that that the infrastructure for international cooperation is not only able to withstand the stress and complexity of 21st Century challenges, but thrives.

I will end there, I would welcome the opportunity to hear your views and answer any questions.

Thank you very much.

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