Obama administration changing the course of UN: Rice

Some eight months after coming to power, the Obama administration has "dramatically changed" the tone and the practice of US diplomacy at the United Nations, country`s top diplomat to the world body has said.

Updated: Sep 19, 2009, 11:21 AM IST

Washington: Some eight months after coming to power, the Obama administration has "dramatically changed" the tone and the practice of US diplomacy at the United Nations, country`s top diplomat to the world body has said.
"We have changed course," the US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice told reporters at a White House news conference in a briefing on the UN General Assembly session next week, during which the US President Barack Obama would preside over a historic meeting of the UN Security Council on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.

"The United States has dramatically changed the tone, the substance and the practice of our diplomacy at the United Nations, and our approach to the UN as an institution, as well as our approach to multilateralism in general," she said.

Rice said the change in policy was necessary due to "extraordinary array of global challenges".

"Things like poorly guarded nuclear facilities, terrorism by al Qaeda and its affiliates, nuclear challenges from Iran and North Korea, genocide and mass atrocities, cyber-attacks on our digital infrastructure, pandemic disease, climate change, international criminal networks and organisations," she said.

These transnational security challenges can only be dealt with in cooperation with other nations. They can`t, by definition, be dealt with by any single country in isolation, she argued, adding that in the 21st century, America`s security and well-being is inextricably linked to the security and well-being of people elsewhere.

"The United Nations is thus essential to our efforts to galvanise concerted international action to make Americans safer and more secure. So in both the Security Council and the
United Nations General Assembly, we`re working to forge common purpose with other nations," she said.

Briefing reporters over the principles that have guided America`s new approach to the UN, she said the administration has been working here to promote US`s core national security interests.

"On North Korea, we negotiated an unanimous Security Council resolution, imposing the toughest sanctions on the books against any country in the world today. We also continue our work in the Security Council to ensure that Iran meets its nuclear obligations and to deal with pressing crises in places from Congo to Somalia," she said.

"We participate constructively. Rather than throw up our hands and walk away, we`re trying to roll up our sleeves and get things done," Rice said, citing the example of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which the US joined in May.

"We stand firmly on principle and resolute on issues that matter most to us, but we`re not picking petty battles simply for the sake of being contrary. In the past, we have sometimes let ourselves be defined as much by what we stand against as what we stand for," she said.

Rice said US seeks constructive working relationships with nations large and small. "While we pursue more effective cooperation among members of the Security Council, the 15 members of the Security Council, we`re also mindful of the fact that the United Nations consists of 192 member states".

"We work with the vast majority of countries on the basis of both mutual interest and mutual respect, to try to bridge old divides and resist the efforts of a handful of customary spoilers to prevent shared progress," she said.

Rice said the US is meeting its obligations. Unlike in the past, the US is now paying its bills. "We have been able to clear US arrears to the UN`s regular budget and those to its peacekeeping budget which accumulated from 2005 to 2008.”

"We`ll meet our 2009 obligations on the peacekeeping budget in full, and if the administration`s financial year 2010 budget request is fully funded, we`ll keep current on both our regular and peacekeeping accounts, allowing us to start to move towards ending the practice, begun in the 1980s, of paying our bills to the UN and other international organisations nearly a year late," she added.

Bureau Report