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Diplomacy in Action

Multilateral Engagement and Its Benefits for Americans

Nerissa Cook
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organization Affairs
U.S. Council for International Business
Washington, DC
July 26, 2012


Good evening. I want to thank the Better World Campaign and our other sponsors for bringing us together this evening, and so many Members of Congress and staff for attending.

Thank you also for the opportunity to share a view from the State Department on just how important UN specialized and technical agencies are to the United States and the American people. While many Americans are unfamiliar with the “alphabet soup” of UN specialized and technical agencies, the truth is every American citizen and business receives very real benefits from these agencies.

It is through cooperation at the International Civil Aviation Organization that the nations of the world, the airline industry, and key stakeholders like pilots can work together to ensure the safety and security of the thousands of commercial, cargo, and other aircraft that take to the skies each day.

It is through the good work of the International Telecommunications Union that we have a global telecommunications network that is dependable and interoperable, along with the uniform global standards that enable U.S. technology companies to export their goods and services to other countries.

It is through the Universal Postal Union that we have continued to ensure fair and efficient global standards and agreements for the delivery of more than 400 billion letters and packages every year worldwide.

It is through the International Maritime Organization that we have a strong framework of treaties, standards, and guidelines to govern the safety and security of the over 45,000 merchant ships that ply the world’s trade routes, and which transport approximately 90 percent of all U.S. foreign trade.

And it is through the World Meteorological Organization that the United States exchanges weather and climate data with other countries to improve prediction and response times to severe weather.

We depend on these global systems for the communication and transportation that is the underpinning for our contemporary, interconnected world. Without these global institutions, we would resort to a piecemeal web of hundreds or thousands of bilateral and regional treaties, agreements, or other solutions – and it still wouldn’t be as comprehensive or as strong a system for cooperation.

Just imagine a world without the UN specialized and technical agencies . . . without ICAO, airlines wouldn’t be as safe and secure as they are for you and me and our loved ones. And international flights and the movement of products by air would be less reliable and efficient.

Without multilateral coordination through the ITU, countries would need to enter into numerous bilateral agreements just so their citizens and businesses could place international telephone calls.

Without the IMO and UPU, shipping and international mail would take longer, be less reliable, and take more money out of our pockets.

And without the WMO, it would be harder and more costly for us to obtain weather and climate data and to issue forecasts for American farmers, shippers, airlines, and families headed to the beach.

Fortunately, we do have these agencies, working every day to advance global cooperation on systems that American citizens have come to depend on in our daily business, and our daily lives. It is because of their importance that we have put such a premium on U.S. leadership at UN specialized and technical agencies, and across the UN system.

Let me close simply by encouraging you to speak tonight with the representatives from these agencies, to learn more about the important work they do and the benefits they provide to Americans across our country. Thank you.

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