Well, good morning!
This is an intimidating crowd -- I got to tell you. It really is.
No, I am so thrilled to be here. I will tell you that being at the
Council on Foreign
Relations is something that's very special, and I appreciate
the opportunity to speak with you today and let you know a little bit
about what we're doing.
We found our move in New York to be a pleasant one. There have been a
few adjustments, mainly the weather. It's cold here. In South Carolina
we consider, you know, 58-60 [degrees Fahrenheit] freezing -- and here
that's definitely different. But we are getting used to it. My son,
Nalin, we've determined, is now a city boy, which makes this mom very
nervous. I do take care of my elderly parents, and they are learning how
Uber, which has been really
interesting. So, we've had to pick them up a couple of times. But other
than that, they are doing very well. My daughter is a freshman at
Clemson, and she is going to come to New York at Easter and we're going
to convince her that she's going to love it.
So, those are all the things that we're doing. And I'll tell you that,
Michael and I, what we love is everyone has been so incredibly kind and
welcoming to us. We've decided you can't run out of restaurants and you
can't run out of things to do in this city, and so we very, very much
Iím excited that Iím going to be taking over the presidency of the
Security Council in April, and Iíd like to spend a few moments just
talking to you about our agenda and what we want to try and accomplish.
Being at the U.N. has reminded me in powerful ways of my early days in
state government in South Carolina. The U.N. Security Council -- just like
South Carolina legislature -- is basically a club. And the thing
about clubs is that they have rules, and they have a culture. There is
a constant pressure to comply with this culture. And soon enough, members
are doing things a certain way because thatís the way theyíve always
done them. And then the club becomes stale. Its members forget that
being responsive and changing with the times are needed to show value to
the people that they serve.
Iíve approached my job at the U.N. in the same way I did in South
Carolina: Iím working to change the culture.
Institutions always benefit from an outsiderís perspective. In South
Carolina, I was the first minority governor, and a real shock to the
state, the first girl governor as well. And I was definitely an
outsider. But my perspective allowed me to see the ways the legislature
had become complacent.
Challenging the rules of the club didnít make me popular at the State
House. But it was necessary then, and itís necessary now.
At the U.S. Mission, weíre all about changing the culture and bringing
positive energy to the United Nations. Weíve put accountability front
and center. People whoíve worked with me know that I have no tolerance
for unmet promises and inaction. My team is about action, reliability,
and results. We demand that of ourselves and we expect it of others.
Weíre also having the backs of our allies, and weíre not afraid to call
out the governments that donít have our backs.1
We will deal fairly with
the people who are fair with us. If not, all bets are off.
Donít get me wrong. I donít have illusions about how easily an
institution the size and complexity of the United Nations can be
changed. Still, with the support of the
new Secretary-General and many
of my colleagues on the Security Council, weíve already started to make
A couple of weeks ago when a U.N. agency put out yet another ridiculously
attacking Israel, we -- we were able to work with the
Secretary-General to have it withdrawn. The
head of the U.N. agency then
I think this incident really goes to the heart of what needs to be
changed at the United Nations. So many dollars and man hours were spent
to produce a false and defamatory report. So much energy and emotion is
spent on the same old things. Meanwhile, the U.N. is missing the growing
discontent -- and growing distrust -- among the people itís supposed to
The fact is a wave is building throughout the world. Itís a wave of
populism that is challenging institutions like the United Nations and
shaking them to their foundations.
So many people are desperate. So many face injustice, genocide,
starvation, and corruption -- and they feel powerless. So many people
yearn just to be heard.
Mohammed Bouazizi was one of the first to show the world the frustration
thatís out there.
Mohammed was a simple street vendor in Tunisia. He was repeatedly abused
by a corrupt system for the crime of wanting to sell his oranges and
apples. He became so desperate to be heard that he set himself on fire
in front of the offices of the police -- the very police who had
humiliated and stolen from him. Mohammedís act of desperation was heard
by the people. It
set off the Arab Spring.
Then there was
[Agha-Soltan]. She was 26 years old, talking on her cell phone,
when she was shot by government forces in Iran in 2009. A video of her
bleeding to death on the street in Tehran went viral. Once again, the
people reacted. Nedaís death powered the
Green Revolution. But the
international elite had other priorities for Iran. In the end, Nedaís
death -- and the dreams of the Iranian people -- were overlooked and
Like all governing bodies, the United Nations has to contend with this
growing wave of discontent. I came to the U.N. with the goal of showing
the American people value for our investment in this institution. And
when I say ďvalue,Ē Iím not primarily talking about budgets. Iím talking
about making the U.N. an effective tool on behalf of our values.
The United States is the moral conscience of the world.
We will not walk
away from this role. But we will insist that our participation in the
honor and reflect this role. If we canít speak on behalf of people like
Mohammed and Neda, then we have no business being here.
For me, human rights are at the heart of the mission of the United
Nations. Thatís why I'll be devoting a portion of my presidency to
putting the issue of human rights on the -- on the agenda at the Security Council.
It might surprise many Americans to learn that human rights violations
have not been considered an appropriate subject for discussion in the
Security Council. This is the rule the club has created. The Security
Council has never had a -- a session focused exclusively on human rights.
There have been meetings focused on singular situations in particular
countries, but never -- bless you [to audience member who sneezed] -- has a meeting been dedicated to the broader
question of how human rights abuses can lead to a breakdown in national
peace and security. The thinking is that peace and security are the
Security Councilís business. Human rights are left, separate, to others.
The need for this is to change not just a question of morality --
although morality should compel all of us to protect basic human
dignity. Itís a question of the very peace and security that the
Security Council is charged to promote. The fact is peace and security
cannot be achieved in isolation from human rights. In case after case,
human rights abuses are not the byproduct of conflict -- they are the
cause of conflict; or they are the fuel that feeds the conflict.
Desperate people subject to humiliation and abuse will inevitably resort
to violence. People who are robbed of their humanity and dignity will
inevitably want revenge. They are also vulnerable to manipulation or
coercion by extremist groups.
In some cases, human rights abuses literally provide the financing for
aggression. The North Korean regime forces political prisoners to work
themselves to death in coal mines to finance its nuclear program. In
other cases, human rights abuses are a weapon of war. Syrian
intelligence uses torture -- including the deliberate, systemic torture
of children -- to identify and silence opponents. And as you know,
pro-government forces in Syria have systematically targeted civilian
infrastructure, including hospitals.
Recently, CCTV cameras captured what happens when hospitals are targeted
by government bombs. A
horrifying YouTube [video] showed the final seconds of
the life of the last pediatrician in East Aleppo, Dr. Mohammed, who was
there. The video is simply shot down a hallway of a childrenís hospital.
Dr. Maíaz darts in and out, hurrying from room to room, seeing patients.
Then, just after he walks out of the frame, you see the walls, the
ceiling, the floor, the air of the hospital explode. And then the screen
The video is horrible, but the reality behind it is even worse. Together
with Russia and Iran, the Assad regime has destroyed each and every
hospital in East Aleppo. Every one. A quarter million people have left
to suffer. These are war crimes.
And Assadís crimes, of course, have not been confined to Syria. Syrian
human right -- Syrian
human rights violations have led to the greatest
refugee crisis since
World War II. What was once a brutal crackdown on peaceful protestors is
now a six-sided conflict and a great power proxy war.
I believe strongly that the time has come for the Security Council to
explicitly consider the connection between human rights and security.
This debate is one thatís worth having. It would greatly strengthen the
work of the Security Council. And itís the right thing to do.
We intend to challenge Members [sic] States to start walking the walk and not
just talking the talk of human rights. We will see which countries rise
to the challenge and which resort to the same old, tired excuses. It
will be very telling if any country tries to block this debate. Itís
past time that the Security Council acknowledge the importance of human
rights abuses and demand that its member nations do the same.
A second issue I intend to focus on in the coming weeks is the
peacekeeping operations. This is an area of great potential for reform.
One of the ways the U.N. does its best work -- and shows its greatest value
-- is through peacekeeping operations.
But too often the focus of our peacekeeping efforts is on the troop
contributing countries -- that is those who are paid to send troops into
an area; or the funding countries; or the bureaucracy of the U.N. itself
not on protecting civilians and achieving a political solution.
In the past, when weíve discussed our peacekeeping operations, weíve
kept the focus on management-related issues. Weíve rightly spent time on
peacekeeper troop conduct. But too often weíve gotten bogged down in
parochial questions. Weíve spent a lot of time worrying about which
country or bureaucracy benefits from the mission. Weíve worried about
the donor countries. Weíve worried about troop supplying countries.
Weíve missed the forest for the trees in peacekeeping operations
During the U.S. presidency, I intend to do something different. We will
lay out a comprehensive vision for how peacekeeping missions should be
reviewed moving forward. We will back -- go back to first principles and ask
hard questions: What was the original intent of the mission? Is the
mission achieving its objective? Are we lifting up the people in the
region towards independence? What are the mission countries doing to
help themselves? Do we have an exit plan? And is there accountability?
As it stands, the lack of this kind of basic evaluation in the U.N.
missions is shocking. For example, the
U.N. has a political mission in
Afghanistan -- not a peacekeeping mission. But the accountability concept
is the same. This mission has been in place for more than 15 years, and
it has never once been reviewed. No one has ever thought to check and
see if weíre actually achieving any goals. This is unacceptable.
We are in the process of proposing a strategic review of this and other
missions to get the facts on the ground. Peacekeeping is the largest
item in the U.N. budget. Our review will identify those missions that are
in need of structural reform. We will determine where we need to
augment, where we need to restructure, and where we need to cut back.
Again, Iím not just interested in cheaper peacekeeping operations. Iím
interested in better and smarter peacekeeping operations.
This is an area in which Secretary-General Guterres and I very much are
in agreement. We have developed a set of principles to guide our review
and our operations going forward. They start with the fundamentals:
effectiveness and accountability.
In South Sudan, the
civil war continues, and there is no political
solution in sight. Itís time to rethink that mandate and find a
political solution with partners in the region. Other principles seem
basic, but what is basic at the U.N. and what is basic in the real world
can be two different things. The agreement of the host country to an
operation is essential to its success. Again, in South Sudan, the
government openly opposes the mission and the mission has suffered;
therefore, the people continue to suffer. We have to do a better job to
avoiding mission creep and ensure that the objectives of peacekeeping
missions are achievable. We must have an exit strategy. And if things
donít improve, we have to have the political will to adjust the mission,
even if some countries and bureaucracies are going to lose funding in
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example,
the government is
corrupt and preys on its citizens. At the same time, the U.N. peacekeeping
mission is mandated to partner with the government to consolidate peace
and security. In other words, the U.N. is aiding a government that is
inflicting predatory behavior against its own people. We should have the
decency and common sense to end this.
We also need to have the political will to adjust the mission when
things arenít improving on the ground. After a very difficult period,
the democratically elected leaders of the Central African Republic are
seeking help in training their own troops to take over the -- take over from U.N.
The president has told me that his country is eager to
stand on its own two feet. This is exactly what we want to see. Our goal
should be to end these missions, not continue them with no end in sight,
creating a more dependent and helpless environment.
This is a moment of great responsibility for those who believe in peace
and security through international cooperation. Countries all over the
world are turning inward. People are questioning the value of
interactions with other nations and with international institutions.
Some of those questions are good ones and are long overdue. But there is
also a danger. Hanging in the balance is the very relevance of the
This is a time, in short, to show the people reasons to support the U.N.
Even in these cynical times, I believe we all carry in our hearts a bit
of idealism that inspired the creation of the United Nations. I know we
all want those ideals to succeed in the world. I know I do.
promised the American people to continue the United Statesí
indispensable role as the moral conscience of the world.
Today, I pledge
to my colleagues on the Security Council that I will work with them to
make the U.N. an effective instrument of peace, security, and human rights
of all people. I hope they will join me in doing whatís right, both for
the United Nations and for the people we are pledged to protect.