Remarks at the High-Level Thematic Debate on Strengthening Cooperation Between the UN and Regional and Sub-Regional Organizations
Ambassador David Pressman
Alternate Representative to the UN for Special Political Affairs
Thank you, Mr. Chairperson. And thank you to President Museveni, the Secretary-General and other distinguished participants for your engagement on such an important issue.
The United States is deeply committed to strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and regional and sub-regional organizations.
More and more regional organizations are on the front lines of more and more conflicts. Working to prevent violence, protect civilians, advancing political processes, build peace, and – when necessary – deploying forces to help keep that peace. It is critically important for the United Nations – and each of its member states – to robustly support these efforts. That is why the United States is proud to contribute such extensive political and financial support to advance this work. From the more than $500 million dollars the United States has provided to support the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), to the almost $180 million to support the deployment of the African Union Mission in Mali (AFISMA) before its transition to a United Nations Peacekeeping Mission, and continuing with some $100 million in similar support provided to the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic. In addition to our consistent diplomatic and political support for their work, we have consistently put our money where our mouth is. And we will continue to do so.
But money is not the same as partnership. Regional organizations need partners not patrons. That is why much of the focus at the United States-Africa Leaders Summit, convened by President Obama in August in Washington, was devoted to discussing how the United States could deepen its partnership with countries that commit forces to regional peacekeeping and how we, along with other partners, can help address their political and operational challenges.
Mr. Chairman, too often in these chambers a call for “strengthening cooperation” is reduced to a conversation about cash. That diminishes the importance of these relationships and the challenges we seek to confront. When it comes to peacekeeping, we must recognize that the kind of United Nations peacekeeping the world needs today has indeed evolved; we must appreciate that for the United Nations to be able to deliver on its responsibility to advance international peace and security, the United Nations – and its member states and troop and police contributors – must be ready to deploy the kind of peacekeeping operations that are in fact needed today, willing to confront the kinds of challenges that in fact surround us today; able to operate in the kinds of environments that in fact beckon peacekeeping today. Yet, too often, around here we seem stuck in yesterday. Which, too often, leaves regional and sub-regional organizations to fend for themselves. Too often we are unwilling to cobble together the kinds of troops, with the kinds of equipment, with the kind of political support necessary to successfully protect civilians and navigate and execute in environments that need UN peacekeeping. This is a problem to be worked. It is a problem we must commit to addressing. And it is not a problem that will be solved by blank checks. When we speak of “strengthening cooperation,” let’s mean what we say. Let’s commit to figuring out how to best work together to advance the kinds of political processes that actually drive peace; to deploy the kinds of peacekeeping operations that actually protect civilians; to build the kind of partnerships that advance our shared goals, invests us all in achieving them, and leads to real impact in the lives of people who are counting on us.
Regional organization and sub-regional organizations are indispensable partners, and they should be treated as such. Whether it’s the European Union and NATO providing security and rule of law assistance in the Western Balkans, the OSCE monitoring implementation of the Minsk agreements in Ukraine, ECOWAS’ efforts to advance elections in West African countries like Burkina Faso and Nigeria, the African Union’s AMISOM helping to reestablish government control in Somalia, or the EU’s Atalanta fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia, regional and sub-regional organizations are leveraging local knowledge and cultural understanding, relationships and resources to help mitigate conflicts and support recovery and stabilization efforts.
From ASEAN’s important and growing role in the Asia-Pacific region and the platforms it has provided – such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit – for nations to exchange views and deepen collaboration on issues such as disaster management and maritime security. To the important work of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community helping its Pacific Island members make progress toward development goals and respond to natural disasters.
Much is being done. But so too, much remains to be done – and more leadership of regional organizations is needed in countering the menace of terrorism and violent extremism, including developing regional plans to support the implementation of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
Mr. Chair, our discussion today highlights the growing connections between global and regional organizations in addressing crises. The challenges we face are plentiful, but when we act collectively our potential knows no bounds; when we build real partnerships between this august body and those regional and sub-regional organizations closest to the problems we tackle, we see real results; when we commit to and build-up the capacity of United Nations peacekeeping to deal with the challenges we confront today, we also bolster the work of regional and sub-regional organizations working to navigate in those conflicts. Much remains to be done on all of these fronts. And the leaders of regional and sub-regional organizations should know that, in the United States, you will always find a strong, determined, and committed partner in this important work.
Thank you very much.