Opening Remarks at The Seventh Annual Global Classrooms DC Model UN Event
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organization Affairs
(As prepared remarks)
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Good morning. It is an honor to host the seventh annual Global Classrooms D.C. Model UN Event at the State Department. I cannot think of a better location to hold this Model UN Conference.
Before moving forward, I want to praise and highlight the extraordinary effort and leadership of Karen Mulhauser and Jill Ruchala of the United Nations Association for organizing this conference. I also want to thank Dr. Jon Andrus, Deputy Director of the Pan-American Health Organization for joining with us this morning, and for generously allowing Global Classrooms to use space across the street at the Pan American Health Organization. Jon, thank you so much.
I would like to commend all of you for being here and for participating in Model/UN, and thank you for your ongoing commitment to the United Nations, global engagement and to the betterment of the world. Having participated in Model UN, many years ago, I have wonderful memories of my experience, and remember vividly representing the tiny Union of Comoros, located thousands of miles from the United States in the Indian Ocean. I know you have put a tremendous amount of time and effort in preparation for this conference, and it is your dedication and hard work that will make this day memorable and undoubtedly have a lasting impact on your lives.
It is particularly fitting that we are in the Dean Acheson Auditorium today. By a show of hands, does anybody know who Dean Acheson is?
Dean Acheson was one of the most influential foreign policy voices in the 20th Century, serving in President Franklin Roosevelt’s Administration, and then as U.S. Secretary of State under President Harry Truman from 1949 to1953. What stands out about Dean Acheson was his significant role in the creation of the United Nations, as well as other important multilateral institutions, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. These are multilateral institutions that many of us take for granted today – but did not exist 70 years ago.
Mr. Acheson, like the Presidents he served, understood intuitively, the importance of international institutions, following the horrific loss of life and property during the Second World War, and worked to create new global mechanisms and institutions, including the UN, to prevent future wars and to ensure world peace, prosperity, human rights and security. When 50 nations came together in San Francisco in the Spring of 1945, it was Dean Acheson's boss, then President Truman, who gave a speech to open the conference that would lead to the signing of the United Nations Charter and the creation of the United Nations. President Truman’s determined leadership and support for the UN ushered in a new era of international cooperation, and laid the foundation for his vision of “lasting freedom and independence” for all UN members. In his address to the United Nations Conference in San Francisco, President Truman said, “At no time in history has there been a more necessary meeting than this one… you members of this conference are to be architects of the better world. In your hands rests our future."
In so many ways, President Truman was speaking to all of us when he spoke about being “architects of the better world”: Each and every one of you, like every American, has the future of the nation and this planet in your hands.
Shortly after taking office, President Obama, heeding the call of President Truman, reinvigorated American engagement at the UN and globally, declaring a new period of engagement for the United States – one focused on “collective action and shared responsibility.” The President’s effective strategy has resulted in new and stronger coalitions, and in greater global burden sharing, insuring that the infrastructure for international cooperation is not only able to withstand the stress and complexity of 21st Century challenges, but thrive. In his speech before the UN last September, President Obama said, “..the time has come for the world to move in a new direction based on mutual interest, mutual respect and our work must begin now.”
By participating in Model UN, you have answered President Obama’s call for greater American engagement internationally. Acting as citizen ambassadors and hopefully future Department of State employees, you are taking a leadership role in promoting multilateralism and U.S. engagement with the United Nations -- with a keen understanding that in the 21st Century you need global solutions to global problems. Having been in your shoes, I know your agenda is wide-ranging and challenging.
During the Model UN conference you are going to tackle many of the difficult 21st century issues that the Obama Administration and the UN work on daily, and they are not easy to address including, Afghanistan, clean water, child soldiers, global health, human trafficking and equal opportunity and treatment for women and girls globally. As the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs, I work directly on many of these critical and pressing global issues, and I can tell you first-hand the importance of multilateral diplomacy, and particularly of working with the United Nations to meet these challenges.
I know for some, it is easy to criticize the United Nations; it's a big organization and one that is often messy and at times difficult to understand. But, as Secretary Clinton says, "If we didn't have the United Nations, we would have to invent one."
Secretary Clinton was right on the mark. Just for a moment, imagine if the United Nations did not exist. How would we protect and provide security for millions of people around the world, in countries like Sudan or the Democratic Republic of Congo, without UN peacekeepers? How would the international community manage and coordinate a global response to an outbreak of famine, a global pandemic such as the H1N1 flu or a catastrophic natural disaster – like we recently witnessed in Haiti?Next week, I will be traveling to Haiti to meet with UN officials and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti. As you know over the past three months there has been an overwhelming humanitarian response by the United States and our international partners, including the UN, to the earthquake in Haiti, one of the worst catastrophes in modern times. Since January, over 140 nations, including the United States, have provided immediate assistance and relief to millions of Haitians. In cooperation with the Haitian government, the UN and international community have moved quickly to help provide temporary shelter, food, sanitation and medical assistance.
Together with the Haitian government, the United Nations and international partners we are working to build back Haiti better as the recovery and reconstruction process moves forward. While there is much work to be done in Haiti over the comings months and years to help Haitians recover and rebuild their communities and nation, what is happening in Haiti today is a strong example of just how important U.S. cooperation with the United Nations and global institutions is when addressing serious crises around the world, whether they are natural or man-made.
No single nation, even one as powerful as the United States, can solve all the world's problems on its own. President Franklin Roosevelt said, "The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation…. It cannot be a peace of large nations -- or of small nations. It must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world." In the end, the United States supports the United Nations because we think it is an investment in the world's security, and therefore an investment in America's security, prosperity and freedom.
In closing, last year when Secretary Clinton spoke to Global Classrooms DC she urged Model UN participants to think about the State Department as a possible career choice in the future. I want to make that same pitch to you, as you think about possible career paths, and urge you to think seriously about serving at the State Department or elsewhere in the United States government.
Regardless of your future vocation, I have confidence that whatever career path you choose, having been a part of Model UN, you will continue to be advocates for global engagement and strong supporters of multilateral partnerships, including America’s relationship with the United Nations. I hope you will carry away positive memories of your time in the Department of State today. Once again, I commend you on your hard work thus far, and I look forward to hearing more about the outcome of this Model UN Conference.