Esther Brimmer
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Organization Affairs
Buenos Aires, Argentina
August 31, 2010

(As Prepared Remarks)

Ambassador Basabe, thank you for that warm introduction. I want to thank the Instituto del Servicio Exterior de la Nación and the Foreign Ministry of Argentina for inviting me to address this distinguished audience. It is an honor to be here today.

It has been an historic year for the people of Argentina, and I join President Obama and Secretary Clinton in recognizing Argentina's 200th anniversary on its path to independence. This is a significant milestone for Argentina, and we join you as you celebrate this bicentennial.

When you look at the United States and Argentina today we share a common focus on promoting democracy, social and economic development, regional stability, international security, and a strong commitment to human rights and the rule of law.

Our two nations also share a common commitment to multilateral cooperation and to addressing some of the most pressing global challenges, including non-proliferation, conflict prevention, and fighting terrorism.

As we join forces to address these challenges, the United States is not only seeking to forge a cooperative partnership with Argentina, but to enlist Argentina’s support in building a deeper partnership with the international community to address 21st century problems.

At the UN General Assembly almost a year ago, President Obama spoke about a new era of multilateral engagement, with the understanding that the United States does not and cannot stand separate from the world, but rather is embedded in it – economically, politically, and culturally.

In May, the President released the U.S. National Security Strategy, once again emphasizing that the United States must sustain international cooperation to meet the global challenges of the 21st Century.

Consider for a moment some of the key priorities highlighted by President Obama in the strategy document: preventing armed conflict, promoting human rights, responding to climate change, expanding economic cooperation, combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons, and ensuring food security.

Addressing any one of these issues would require energized engagement with the United Nations, international organizations and cooperation across the multilateral fora.

Because many of today’s global challenges are transnational in nature, they require multilateral approaches to rally support to address international crises.

For example, we see this multilateral cooperation playing out in Haiti where the Joint Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is hard at work coordinating with the UN MINUSTAH peacekeeping mission to ensure that upcoming elections in Haiti are carried out according to international standards. Argentina’s long term commitment, to Haiti, volunteering peacekeepers, police and doctors is vital to this effort.

For the international community to succeed and progress, we have to build, sustain, and support global institutions and mechanisms that can meet the challenges of our generation including; international networks of terrorists and criminals, global pandemics, cyber crime, climate change, ongoing conflicts, human rights and sustaining global growth and development. Toward that end, we are working with Argentina and other countries through the G20, to advocate for international economic cooperation that is integral to global economic recovery.

Moving forward, I want to touch briefly on two key issues that highlight the United States unwavering commitment to multilateral engagement: human rights, and international peacekeeping. I know the Government of Argentina cares deeply about both of these issues.

Human Rights

I’d like to take a moment and talk about the United States approach to international human rights issues. In the context of this discussion, I want to highlight the positive cooperation we have had with government of Argentina in promoting human rights regionally and globally, particularly at the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, and in Geneva at the Human Rights Council.

The United States is proud of its record on human rights and the role our country has played in advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world. It is as President Obama has called it, “and unfinished journey,” because the work is never done whether at home or abroad. But the ideals that animate us are clear.

We also believe in leading by example. In fact, on August 20, we submitted a report on the U.S. human rights record, in accordance with the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. The report reiterates our unwavering commitment to freedom, equality and dignity and to build a world in which universal rights give strength and direction to the nations, partnerships and institutions that can usher us to a more perfect world. We also demonstrated that we are capable of being self-critical and identifying areas for improvement within our own system even as we encourage other states to live up to their human rights obligations.

The review, which included an unprecedented level of consultation and engagement with civil society across our nation, we hope will serve as an example for other countries on how to conduct a thorough, transparent, and credible UPR presentation that highlights not only areas of success, but also the challenges we recognize as needing more attention.

The United States also believes in engaging with partners in the multilateral arena not merely with words, but through concrete action and partnership. One of the earliest decisions this Administration took was to stand for a seat at the Human Rights Council.

When we joined Argentina and other nations on the HRC in September 2009, we were expressing our commitment to protecting and promoting human rights globally and to improving the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations. We also joined with a clear-eyed view of the Council’s potential and its current weaknesses.

We have made a commitment to working from within the Human Rights Council with a broad cross section of member states to strengthen and reform the HRC and enable it to live up to the vision that was crafted when it was created.

That perspective reflected the long history of the UN’s clear limitations in the field of human rights, including its failure to respond to many pressing situations, and its persistent and biased denunciations of Israel.

Over the last year our commitment to these goals remains undiminished. Today we have a better appreciation for the parts of our vision for the Council that have been more quickly achieved, and where real challenges continue to exist.

First the positive side. We have worked with other countries to slowly begin to reverse the Council’s troubling pattern of minimizing attention to urgent situations.

  • During its June session, the Council passed a U.S.-initiated resolution responding to the crisis in Kyrgyzstan, the first concrete action on this issue by a UN body. The speed with which the Council acted on this issue is only the most recent in a series of signs of the progress, however incremental, that has been made since the United States took our seat last September.
  • In addition to action on Kyrgyzstan, the United States partnered with 56 nations, including Argentina, to issue a strong statement regarding Iran’s Human Rights record. Recognizing the statement’s force Iran sought to block it from being read aloud in the Council chamber.
  • The United States also worked with the Afghan government and co-sponsored a resolution in June spotlighting attacks on schoolchildren in Afghanistan, particularly girls; and supported a resolution deepening the Council’s engagement in Somalia.

Building on the progress made in the past few HRC sessions and looking to the upcoming September session, the United States will work with other countries, including Argentina, to renew the mandate for the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan; and support the creation of a mandate for a Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and of Association.

All of this recent work at the HRC, builds on positive action in 2009, including a resolution on Freedom of Expression that brought together the United States, Argentina, and a wide range of countries, bridging some of the most persistent difficulties on the Council.

The positive steps I highlighted on their own do not mean that the Council’s shortcomings have been remedied. In particular, the Council retains a biased and disproportionate focus on Israel that must be remedied.

Council critics are correct that the HRC has a tendency to overlook human rights credentials – or lack thereof – when voting on members or officials to serve on Council bodies. The U.S. and international partners have encouraged qualified countries to step forward and run for Council seats, and we have discouraged – and at times succeeded in gaining broad support to prevent -- unqualified candidates, like Iran, from joining the HRC.

This progress, however modest, suggests that continued U.S. engagement on the Council is valuable. Often, our role at the Council is to rally global support for pressing human rights issues, spanning voting blocs that have too often proven obstacles to progress.

Like any representative body, the Council is only as good as the members that participate in it. By removing ourselves from it, we would allow the work of the Council to be defined by others, and do nothing to advance the cause of human rights multilaterally. By working together to improve this body, however, we can advance that cause—even as we point out where the Council continues to fall short.


The promotion of Human Rights links to another critical priority shared by the United States and Argentina – peacekeeping missions. Peace operations not only help shield civilian populations from violence, but they can help move fragile states toward a durable peace.

In March, when Secretary Clinton met with President Fernandez de Kirchner, she highlighted among many things Argentina’s important contributions to peacekeeping efforts around the world, especially in Haiti. As the Secretary noted, "In the wake of the terrible earthquake there, Argentina has been a vital contributor to the rebuilding and recovery efforts."

Adding to Secretary Clinton’s praise, I want to express the United States appreciation for the continued effort and commitment of Argentine peacekeepers on the ground in Haiti today and for your nation’s continued participation in UN peacekeeping operations. Argentina has been an invaluable contributor to international stabilization and development efforts in Haiti since 1993.

We recognize your strength in the areas of peacekeeping and peacekeeping training, and encourage you to consider increasing your participation in ongoing efforts, including extending training to other nations and pursuing new deployments, where your experience would be of great value.

One of the Security Council’s greatest responsibilities and that of the UN more generally is the creation of peacekeeping mandates. Not only are UN peacekeepers the public face of the UN worldwide, as blue-helmeted soldiers, police, and civilians, but they meet the call from the nations of the world for warring parties to end violence, resolve conflicts peacefully, and as necessary, protect civilians from the imminent threat of violence.

Currently the UN has more than 100,000 peacekeepers deployed, including troops, police and civilians, in 15 different missions around the world. These peacekeepers, from 119 countries from across the globe, including Argentina, are working to end wars and prevent bloodshed.

Today, however, peacekeeping missions are overstretched, under stress and lack key capacities or at times struggle to meet their mandates. The work is hard, but it is indispensible.

Peace operations have been identified by President Obama as a key security issue that merits enhanced and expanded attention on the UN and international stage.

A top priority for the United States is to focus greater international efforts on helping peacekeeping missions develop better guidance, support mechanisms and strategies to protect civilians in their areas of operation. That is one reason we worked hard to pass Security Council resolution 1894 on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, which directed the development of clear measures to help peacekeeping missions more effectively prevent and halt violence against civilians.

President Obama has taken bold steps to invigorate the debate at the UN regarding the next generation of UN peacekeeping. Last September, the President directly engaged leaders from top Troop and Police Contributing Countries to discuss means of strengthening peace operations and to listen to their views.

Today we are working to implement the commitments outlined by the President during this historic meeting. These efforts can briefly be summarized as follows:

  • Strengthen the process for establishing clear, credible, and achievable UN peacekeeping mission mandates that are matched by appropriate resources.
  • Support institutional reform and strengthen the capacity of the UN to plan for, deploy, manage, sustain, evaluate, and transition peacekeeping operations.
  • Build and enhance the capacity of current and potential Troop and Police Contributing Countries and other contributor/donor countries to effectively conduct peacekeeping operations. For example, the U.S. has implemented programs such as the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) which strengthens the training and deployment capacity of eligible partner countries
  • Contribute to the successful completion of ongoing peacekeeping operations and the transition of the affected countries to stable democratic governance.
  • Intensify diplomatic support for underlying peace processes, recognizing that a wider political strategy is critical to the success of a peacekeeping mission. We are looking to strengthen the linkages between peacekeeping and peacebuilding, including through the recently concluded special Security Council debate on peacebuilding.

Our efforts to enhance global peacekeeping capacity will require an integrated approach that includes using all of the tools at our disposal. Even with the resources of the United States we know that the scope of the challenges underlying multinational peacekeeping is ultimately greater than any single country’s ability to fully resolve.

The United States looks forward to working with likeminded countries, like Argentina, to emphasize the development of multilateral peacebuilding and peacekeeping partnerships and collaborative approaches to realizing our objectives.

Additionally, I want to spotlight the important White Helmets initiative, which was initially introduced by the Argentine government in 1993, and has been adopted by both the OAS and UN. White Helmets truly exemplifies the importance of addressing human security needs and bringing multilateral stakeholders, governmental and non-governmental organizations, together to coordinate and address responses to humanitarian catastrophes, such as the Haiti earthquake and following the Tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2005.

I will close there. Again thank you for the opportunity to discuss the Administration’s multilateral agenda. I would be happy to go into greater detail about any of the areas I discussed, but I would really like to hear your questions, and welcome our conversation.