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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
96/03/04: The UN: What's In It For US? (Albright)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE USUN PRESS RELEASE
AMBASSADOR MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT
PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE FROM THE U.S. TO THE UNITED
NATIONS WOMEN'S FUND -- NORTH CAROLINA COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA
MARCH 4, 1996
I am delighted to be here with Governor Hunt,
Chairman Helms, Ambassador Jeanette Hyde, Deputy
Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Larkin, and all
of you. Although this is a political year, this is
clearly not a partisan event.
Governor Hunt is respected around the nation for
his commitment to quality education and to building
in North Carolina a thriving economy that creates
good jobs. Senator Helms is a living legend, and one
of the true gentlemen of the U.S. Senate. He and I
do not always see eye to eye, but as I have heard him
say many times--one can always disagree without being
One thing about which we all agree is the Women's
Fund of North Carolina. Yours is a vigorous
organization with a purpose as old as our
Constitution--ensuring equal rights and equal
opportunities for women and girls. I salute you, and
I have to say that nothing could be finer than to be
out of New York and in North Carolina with you today.
In preparing my remarks, I considered limiting my
discussion to what are commonly called "women's
issues". I chose not to do so, because I believe
every important issue of public policy is a
woman's issue--and a man's. Certainly, there is no
distinctly male or female role in determining the
foreign policy of the United States.
So today, with that in mind, and with Senator Helms
more or less held captive here until I finish,
without being disagreeable, I thought I would talk
about the UN; and about America's role in it. I will
outline why I believe our interests are served by our
participation and leadership at the UN. I will
summarize our effort to reform that organization so
that it works better and costs less. And I will
describe the Administration's plan for meeting our
obligations to it.
The UN was designed primarily by Americans--of both
genders. But despite that, we have always been of
two minds about it. We recognize the need for an
institution that helps countries work together,
but--as I am sure Senator Helms would agree--we do
not accept--and will never submit to--the idea of
Fortunately, President Truman understood that, and
in signing the UN Charter, he was careful to protect
As a result, the only part of the UN with the
authority to compel anyone to do anything is the
Security Council, of which we are a permanent member,
with the right to veto any proposal we don't like.
So do not worry. The UN is no threat to our
Constitution. It has no power to tax us. It has no
authority to entangle us in foreign conflicts. And
despite the fantasies of some, it is not going to
descend upon us in black helicopters in the middle of
the night and steal our lawn furniture.
As Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg said a half
century ago, under the UN Charter:
America retains every basic attribute of its
sovereignty...In a word...the flag stays on the
And for the past fifty years, that is where the
flag has stayed, while Administrations from both
parties have found value to the United States in a UN
Over time, the UN system has made our world more
safe by helping to prevent outbreaks of violence in
strategic regions, such as Cyprus and the Middle
East; and by working to prevent nuclear weapons from
falling into the hands of outlaw states.
It has made our world more just by invoking
sanctions against countries that support terrorism,
such as Libya and Iraq; by establishing war crimes
tribunals for Rwanda and the Balkans; and by
denouncing Cuba's criminal shootdown of civilian
aircraft nine days ago.
It has made our world more free by helping nations
like South Africa, El Salvador, Cambodia and Haiti to
make the great leap from division or war towards
democracy and peace.
And it has made our world more humane by caring for
refugees, providing food for children and preventing
the spread of epidemic disease.
The UN's specialized agencies also perform
indispensable services. You may think you have never
benefitted personally from the UN, but if you have
ever traveled on an international airline or shipping
line; or placed a phone call overseas; or received
mail from outside the country; or if you have ever
felt properly warned about a hurricane--then you have
been served directly or indirectly by the UN system.
In addition to all this, the UN provides a means
for building a global consensus about the difference
between right and wrong.
In the UN's early days, a great American First
Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, helped draft the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights. This past fall, at the
Fourth World Conference on Women, another great First
Lady reaffirmed America's commitment to that
Declaration in eloquent and memorable terms.
All Americans could take pride in the message Mrs.
Clinton brought to Beijing; a message that applies
both in the United States and overseas; a message
that says that the physical abuse of women must
stop; that the life of a girl should be valued
equally with that of a boy; that there should be
equal access to education, health care and the levers
of economic and political power; and that women's
rights are neither separable nor different from those
Our goal now, in following up the Women's
conference, is to make this message a reality. And
let no one doubt what is at stake.
Today, around the world, appalling abuses are being
committed against women--including coerced abortions
and sterilizations, children sold into prostitution,
ritual mutilations, dowry murders and official
indifference to violence.
Some say this is all cultural and there's nothing
we can do about it. I say it's criminal and it's the
responsibility of each and every one of us to stop
Despite recent gains, women remain an undervalued
and underdeveloped human resource. This is not to
say that women have trouble finding work. In many
societies, in addition to bearing the children, women
do most of the work. But often they are barred from
owning land, excluded from schools, denied financial
credit, provided less nourishment and permitted
little or no voice in government.
The Women's Conference could not solve these
problems overnight, but it could--and did--outline a
plan for addressing them. This matters not only to
women, but to all of us. For when women are
empowered, families are strengthened,
socially-constructive values are taught,
sexually-transmitted disease is slowed and the global
economy--upon which so many American jobs
In summary, the UN system, and the services it
provides, allow us to accomplish many things that
matter to our families and to our country, but which
we could not do, or could not afford to do, on our
That is why former President Reagan urged us to
"rely more on multilateral institutions". It is why
President Bush called the UN a key instrument in
enforcing international security and peace. And it
is what President Truman meant when he said that:
We have tried to write into the Charter of the
United Nations the essence of religion. The end
of aggression, the maintenance of peace, the
promotion of social justice and (the defense of)
individual rights and freedoms--by these
principles, the UN...laid the groundwork of the
Charter on the sound rock of religious principles.
So the UN has accomplished much. Its goals are the
right ones. Its success matters to America. But as
I am sure Senator Helms would agree, the UN of today
does not work as well as it should.
Here in North Carolina, and throughout our country,
citizens are demanding a dollar's worth of value for
every tax dollar we spend. Our contributions to the
UN should be no exception. Unfortunately, the UN
developed wasteful habits during the Cold War that
have yet to be fully cured.
Part of the problem is that the UN, because it has
so many members, is inherently hard to manage. I
have often compared it to a business with 185 members
of the board; each from a different culture; each
with a different philosophy of management; each with
unshakable confidence in his or her own opinions; and
each with a brother-in-law who is unemployed.
As a result, the UN bureaucracy has grown to
elephantine proportions. Now, that the Cold War is
over, we are asking that elephant to do gymnastics.
That is why the Clinton Administration, with strong
support from both parties in Congress, has been
pushing so hard for UN reform.
That effort has already produced results. To make
peacekeeping missions more effective, the Security
Council has improved planning and established
rigorous guidelines to be considered before new
missions are approved.
A UN Inspector General has been appointed to crack
down on fraud and waste.
The UN's Undersecretary General for Management is
an American, a former CEO of Price-Waterhouse, who is
applying fiscal discipline learned in the corporate
Last December, the General Assembly approved a
"no-growth" budget that will result in a ten percent
reduction in the number of UN Secretariat staff. A
new efficiency board has been created. And a
high-level group on reform has been charged with
developing a blueprint for the UN of the 21st century.
In recent weeks, we have proposed a host of
additional steps to make the UN smaller, better
organized and more productive.
It is becoming clear, however, that we will not be
able to gain support from other countries to make the
kind of far-reaching changes we want unless we are
able to pay the UN what we owe it for past bills.
Currently, we are almost $900 million behind in our
Now, I get very indignant at the UN when other
countries fail to meet their legal obligations. If
anyone doubts that, they can ask the Cubans or Saddam
But in recent months, when I have tried to focus my
colleagues on the reform agenda, I have found instead
that the United States has become the agenda.
Whenever I talk about how we can make the UN work
better, I am told by friendly and not-so-friendly
nations alike: if you care about making the UN work
better than it does, why doesn't the U.S. pay its
The situation is so bad that the British Foreign
Secretary, in a sound bite his countrymen have been
waiting 200 years to use, has accused us of seeking
"representation without taxation."
At the same time, we face skeptics in the Congress
who doubt the UN can be reformed enough to be worth
continuing U.S. support. We have launched a
bipartisan dialogue with both the House and Senate to
try to come up with a plan that links UN reform to a
reliable commitment by the U.S. to meet its
While it is possible that there are some in
Congress who will never support funding for the UN; I
am convinced that the majority would like to see us
pay what we owe. As one Senate Committee chairman
told me, "the sanctity of contracts is fundamental to
Republican philosophy. It's only those liberals who
think you can have something for nothing."
Accordingly, we will be asking Congress to approve
this year a five year plan for paying our arrears to
the UN. As we expect Congress will insist, the
actual payment of those funds would occur as the UN
reforms, keeps its budget down and cuts unnecessary
staff. We will also be asking UN members to reduce
from 25% to 20% the U.S. share of the UN's regular
budget. The way the UN works, this would have the
effect of reducing our peacekeeping rate to no more
The result of all this for the UN would be a more
equitable and reliable system of financing. And for
the American people, it would assure our continued
leadership within a more effective UN at a reduced
cost consistent with our effort to balance the
budget. In other words, this is a true "win-win"
I believe that, with strong American leadership,
the UN can become a powerful instrument for expanding
freedom, human rights and open markets around the
globe. Although the outlook today is cloudy, I am
confident that--in the end--we will have bipartisan
support for providing that leadership. The nature of
the world today demands it. Most Members of Congress
understand it. The American people expect that kind
of burdensharing. And our participation in the UN
has always had strong support from both parties.
We should never forget that the UN emerged not from
a dream, but a nightmare. In the 1920's and 30's,
the world squandered an opportunity to organize the
peace. The result was the invasion of Manchuria, the
conquest of Ethiopia, the betrayal of Munich, the
depravity of the Holocaust and the devastation of
It was not enough to say, after World War II, that
the enemy had been vanquished--that what we were
against had failed. We had to build the foundation
of a lasting peace. And together, the generation of
Truman, Marshall, Eisenhower and Vandenberg designed
a framework of principle and power that would one day
defeat Communism and promote democratic values and
respect for human rights around the world.
Today, under President Clinton, we are called upon
to develop a new framework for protecting our
territory, our citizens and our interests. In
devising that framework, we will make necessary use
of our own military and economic power. We will
invite help from old friends and new. We will
strengthen and reform the UN. And, because we are
Americans, we will not shy from the responsibilities
of global leadership.
My own family came to these shores as refugees.
Because of this nation's generosity and commitment,
we were granted asylum after the Communist takeover
of Czechoslovakia. The story of my family has been
repeated in millions of variations over two centuries
in the lives not only of immigrants, but of those
overseas who have been liberated or sheltered by
American soldiers, empowered by American assistance
or inspired by American ideals.
I will never forget something the then-Foreign
Minister of Israel, Shimon Peres, said during the
Middle East peace signing ceremony on the White House
lawn two years ago:
When the history books are written, he said:
Nobody will really understand the United States.
You have so much force and you didn't conquer
anyone's land. You have so much power and you
didn't dominate another people. You have
problems of your own and you have never turned
your back on the problems of others.
This generation, our generation, of Americans has a
proud legacy to fulfill.
We have been given an opportunity, at the threshold
of a new century, to build a world in which
totalitarianism and fascism are absent, in which
human liberty is expanded, in which human rights are
respected and in which our people are as secure as we
can ever expect them to be.
Let us, together, welcome that opportunity, not as
Republicans or Democrats, not as men or women, but as
And if we are together, you may be sure that we
Thank you very much. (###)
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