This report is submitted pursuant to the “United Nations Participation Act of 1945” (Public Law 79-264). Section 4 of this law provides in part that:
“The President shall from time to time as occasion may require, but not less than once each year, make reports to the Congress of the activities of the United Nations and of the participation of the United States therein.”
The United States Participation in the United Nations report is a summary of the activities of the U.S. Government in the United Nations and its agencies, as well as the activities of the United Nations and UN agencies themselves. This report seeks to assess in brief UN achievements during 2009, the effectiveness of U.S. participation in the United Nations, and whether U.S. goals were advanced.
Please note that expanded and complementary information related to U.S. engagement with the United Nations for 2009 and years previous is available at http://www.state.gov/p/io/rls/rpt/index.htm.
The year 2009 marked an important and dramatic evolution in U.S. multilateral diplomacy. Acting on President Obama’s call for an “era of engagement,” the United States invigorated and expanded its leadership at the United Nations and in a host of international organizations. That invigorated effort was undertaken in the context of identifying and employing available multilateral mechanisms in support of U.S. national interests.
Over the course of the year, the United States took frequent occasion to reinforce to the international community the need for an effective, efficient, credible, and transparent UN system – a system that could actively aspire to the lofty ideals underpinning its origins.
Early indicators of the altered U.S. approach to multilateral issues included the President’s January announcement that the United States would seek to restore funding to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Administration’s expressed commitment to addressing the problem of arrears, the decision to review international treaties to which the United States is not yet signatory, and the March announcement of the intention to seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council.
This report summarizes such initiatives undertaken during 2009 to advance U.S. interests in the UN system. Those initiatives will be grouped as follows:
- Political and Security Affairs;
- Economic and Social Affairs;
- Specialized Agencies;
- Legal Developments; and
- Budget and Administration.
Political and Security Affairs
The United States is actively engaged on political and security issues across the UN system. That engagement is often most apparent in the context of U.S. leadership at the Security Council, but also includes important U.S. actions and initiatives in specialized agencies and other international organizations.
Among the important accomplishments in the Security Council in 2009 was the unanimous adoption of Resolution 1887, in which the Council expressed grave concern about the threat of nuclear proliferation and the need for international action to prevent it. The Resolution reaffirmed that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery are threats to international peace and security, and showed agreement on a broad range of actions to address nuclear proliferation and disarmament and the threat of nuclear terrorism.
Other important issues included the continuing pursuit of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, including a two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security. The United States continued to work in partnership with the other members of the Quartet (the United Nations, the European Union, and Russia) toward this objective. Key actions in the Security Council included the passage of Resolution 1860 on January 8, which referenced the “deepening humanitarian crisis” in Gaza and included calls for a ceasefire and the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. The United States was both gravely concerned about the humanitarian crisis, and sought a durable cease-fire.
The Security Council, acting through the Iran Sanctions Committee, reported three violations of Resolution 1747, each involving transfers of arms or related material from Iran to Syria. This Committee continues to play a critical role in monitoring states’ implementation of the measures imposed by Resolutions 1737 (2006), 1747 (2007), and 1803 (2008), including examining and taking appropriate action on information regarding alleged violations. The United States strongly supports the Iran Sanctions Committee and works closely with Committee partners to ensure it effectively addresses any reported violations and promotes full and robust implementation.
Responding to North Korea’s announced nuclear test in May 2009, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1874, which strengthened financial measures and arms embargos, and authorized inspection operations, including seizure and disposal of prohibited items.
The Council took landmark actions regarding children and armed conflict in Resolution 1894, and combating sexual and gender-based violence in conflict zones in Resolution 1888. Other important resolutions strengthened the UN role in Afghanistan, and addressed security challenges in Europe, including in Georgia.
The United States also invigorated its engagement on UN peacekeeping issues, seeking clearer, more effective mandates for peacekeeping missions, improved consultations with troop contributors, and sustained political support for peace processes. The President underscored this commitment during an unprecedented meeting with major troop/police contributors during the UN General Assembly.
Economic and Social Affairs
In 2009 the United States strengthened engagement on global climate change, human rights, humanitarian response, gender, and more.
The United States demonstrated decisive leadership in climate change negotiations which resulted in the Copenhagen Accord, a political instrument that outlines provisions on mitigation, financing, transparency, technology, adaptation, and reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation. President Obama played a direct role in these successful negotiations.
To underscore U.S. commitment to the promotion and defense of universal human rights, the United States announced in March its decision to seek election to the Human Rights Council. The United States was elected to the Council in May, and assumed its seat in September. In its first session on the Council, the United States took frequent opportunity to voice its firm resolve. Among the key achievements in this period was a resolution developed with Egypt and co-sponsored by 50 states affirming the fundamental universal values of freedom of opinion and expression.
The United States strengthened cooperation and coordination with several UN agencies to respond to humanitarian crises worldwide, by providing assistance and facilitating humanitarian access that saved lives and helped to protect refugees, displaced persons and other vulnerable populations, as well as victims of sexual exploitation and abuse. The United States remained the largest donor to the UN World Food Program, which provided life-saving food and nutrition to more than 100 million beneficiaries in a year that saw the highest level of hunger in history.
In 2009, the United States expanded its engagement with a host of UN specialized agencies, led by intensified efforts to address nonproliferation and nuclear energy issues through the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), with a focus on the respective nuclear programs of Iran and Syria. The IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution condemning Iran over its nuclear program after the disclosure of the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant. The United States continued its support of IAEA programs to assist countries considering the adoption of nuclear power to make intelligent decisions on whether to do so.
Other specialized agencies with which the United States worked closely included:
- The International Civil Aviation Organization, where the United States contributed significantly to the development of a proposed aviation security plan.
- UNESCO, where the United States won approval to establish its first Category II Center, the International Center for Integrated Water Resources Management.
- The World Intellectual Property Organization, where the U.S. delegation was instrumental in overcoming political objections to adding a Patent Office in Israel.
- The International Labor Organization, where the United States joined in adopting unanimously a Global Jobs Pact.
Of particular import to U.S. engagement in the legal area were continuing efforts to support the successful fulfillment of the missions of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the Cambodia Khmer Rouge Tribunal, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Budget and Administration
In December, the General Assembly approved a 2010-2011 budget of $5.16 billion, representing an increase of 7.5 percent over the final 2008-2009 budget. The United States succeeded in limiting the overall increase, while ensuring resources were provided for priority activities. In negotiations on revision of the UN scale of assessments, the United States succeeded in maintaining the 22-percent ceiling for its contributions to the regular UN budget.
Underscoring constructive engagement with the United Nations, the United States paid full-year assessments in 2009 and paid down arrears from 2005-2009.
The United States continued to play a leading role in efforts to improve effectiveness and strengthen accountability. For example, the United States advocated for improvements to UN procurement practices, vendor registration processes, and coordination between the UN Secretariat and the UN Funds and Programs.
The United States continued to promote improved transparency and accountability in the management of multilateral institutions. As a result of sustained and intensive diplomacy, most UN entities have made considerable progress in reforming financial management and program oversight. Several agencies have also made significant progress toward institutionalizing ethics frameworks.