WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, gave the following remarks as prepared for delivery Wednesday at the confirmation hearing of Gov. Nikki Haley to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations:
“Thank you, Chairman Corker, for calling today’s hearing. Good morning, Governor Haley. Your nomination to serve as our Ambassador to the United Nations comes at a time when the world is in the midst of profound transformation, with conflicts multiplying.
“International institutions like the U.N. are under tremendous stress, as is the entire liberal international order of the last seven decades. In some parts of the globe, there is growing concern that American leadership and our commitment to our core values – is uncertain.
“The United Nations plays a vital role in the maintenance of the current international order, which has served the United States so well since 1945. As Ronald Reagan said, we must be determined that the United Nations does not befall the fate of other international institutions. We must be, in his words, ‘determined that the U.N. should succeed and serve the cause of peace for humankind…. For the stakes are high.’
“So we will need a strong, principled voice at the United Nations who is committed to reforming and strengthening it, not irreparably damaging it. I firmly believe in a world where America works with allies and partners; a world that is governed by just laws and institutions; and a world where we champion our values both at home and abroad. And in so many ways, the U.N. is the premiere international forum to engage in such activities.
“Much will be said about your experience today. One area where I was particularly impressed with your leadership was when you publicly called for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State Capitol – an effort that was ultimately successful. Your action not only demonstrated your willingness to address hate and bigotry, but also your ability to build and work with coalitions, which will become critically important should you be confirmed as the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
“At the same time, we recognize that you haven’t previously worked with the actors and foreign policy considerations involved in international diplomacy. It is my hope, though, that your shrewd political sensibility, history of coalition and consensus building, and desire to undertake new challenges will help you in the early weeks and months of your tenure, should you be confirmed.
“If confirmed, you will lead the fight for American values at the U.N. by standing up against violations of international humanitarian law, against war crimes, against human rights violations, and against crackdowns on democracy and freedom of speech.
“You will face complex challenges like today’s global humanitarian crisis. People are fleeing their homes on a scale not seen since World War II – all at a time when climate change, food insecurity, and water scarcity are increasing tensions and instability across the globe.
“These are challenges that cut across borders that the United States alone cannot meet. The United Nations is uniquely placed to address these problems, and we must engage it robustly to advance American interests.
“The U.N.’s failings are well known. Less known is what it gets right: vaccinating 40 percent of the world’s children; assisting more than 55 million refugees fleeing war, famine, or human rights abuses; providing food to 90 million people in 80 countries; and maternal health work that has saved the lives of 30 million women.
“The U.N. has also launched the Sustainable Development Goals, which, if fully embraced, could have a powerful impact globally on reducing human rights absues, poverty, and poor governance in addition to reaching important benchmarks in women’s and children’s health, economic development, and education. I was particularly proud to promote U.S. leadership on Goal Number 16, which is a special and unprecedented commitment to improving governance and reducing corruption – which are critically important to U.S. national security interests.
“The SDGs, as they’re known, are extraordinary and ambitious goals that can be achieved in concert with the American diplomatic and development efforts that happen all over the world every single day. They represent among the best of what the U.N. can do with its convening power.
“Another dimension of that convening power is the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or the ‘UNF Triple C’ as it is commonly known. For 25 years it is under the UNF Triple C’s auspices that the nations of the world come together to try to tackle this most existential of threats to humanity – climate change. There has been substantial attention paid to the Paris Accords – and rightly so – but Governor Haley, I want to know your thoughts about America’s larger role in climate diplomacy leadership.
“Just yesterday, the United States made a $500 million commitment to the Green Climate Fund to help vulnerable countries respond to the adverse impacts of climate change in the short term, and to introduce clean energy solutions into the international energy supply over the long term.
“I hear mixed messages from the President-elect and the incoming Administration about climate change and our role in fighting it. There’s no better place to lead the world on this issue than through the ‘UNF Triple C’ mechanism and so I’d like to know your thoughts on that, Governor.
“Now, I don’t support Congress enacting across-the-board funding cuts to the United Nations. And yet, I do believe we can all agree the U.N. must do better in many areas. For it to achieve its full potential, it must change.
“I want to quickly highlight priorities that I hope you, Governor Haley, will take up, if confirmed.
“First, the U.N. must be fair. One of the persistent weaknesses across the U.N. system has been the biased and ugly approach to issues that relate to Israel. This must end. The responsibility for doing so starts with the Member States, and as our ambassador, if confirmed, with your voice. The United States must continue to use its voice and its vote to call out and push back against resolutions and other actions that aim to isolate Israel – our strongest ally in the Middle East.
“I remain deeply disappointed by the U.N. Security Council’s passage of a blatantly one-sided resolution this December. And it is absolutely unacceptable – though telling – that attendees at that session applauded after Resolution 2334’s passage. Resolution 2334, and the myriad other U.N. organizations in which Israel is unfairly targeted every year, crystallize for me why the United States must stay engaged in this organization and continue to fight on behalf of our friend.
“Second, Russia’s cynical obstructionism in the U.N. Security Council must be addressed. The war in Syria has resulted in more than 400,000 deaths and the displacement of millions. Russia has vetoed six U.N. Security Council resolutions that could have reduced the violence – further exposing the vulnerability of the international system to Russian aggression.
“Atrocities committed in Syria amount to war crimes and those responsible must be held accountable.
“Third, UN peacekeeping must be strengthened. UN peacekeepers deploy to conflicts around the world, and as a result the United States doesn’t have to go it alone. UN peacekeepers help end war, protect civilian populations, and secure territory. However, troop quality and effectiveness must be increased, and the UN must aggressively address sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers. No other issue has so profoundly eroded the trust of local populations, or the confidence of the international community.
“Fourth, the United Nations must reform its internal management through simplification, flexibility, and decentralization. It must focus more on quality and less on process, and on people rather than bureaucracy. It must be committed to building a culture of accountability and the protection of whistleblowers.
“I am confident the US has a strong partner in reform with the new U.N. Secretary General António Guterres. With finite resources and growing demands, he pursued an aggressive reform agenda at the U.N. refugee agency he led, resulting in significant savings. I urge you to work closely with the new Secretary General as he is highly principled, committed to reform, and the most experienced member to the hold that office in the U.N.’s history.
“Finally, we must shore up the U.N.’s humanitarian response system, which is under extraordinary stress. Brutal conflicts and violent extremists are devastating the lives of millions of people, but the international assistance being provided is not keeping pace with the scale of the problems.
“South Sudan is a tragic example of the struggles the U.N. and the international system face when corrupt, entrenched leaders put their interests and lives ahead of their people, with devastating results – tens of thousands are dead and millions more are displaced, hungry, and vulnerable. The Security Council members must resolve to use the U.N. as a platform and a voice to speak up for people whose voices often go unheard, as well as for those working on the front lines.
“Humanitarian workers and peacekeepers are being deployed longer and in more dangerous environments where they are being intentionally targeted. We need to restore trust in our global order and show humanitarian workers, and those millions left behind in conflicts – living in chronic need and constant fear – the solidarity they deserve and should expect from us.
“We must do so not merely because it is the right thing to do – the United States has a profound moral obligation to lead on these issues in my estimation – but also because it is squarely in our national interests to do so. The United States is better served when we address these issues through the United Nations than if we faced them alone.
“For all its shortcomings, and more importantly for the unsung good that it is does, it is almost impossible to imagine a world without the U.N. For 70 years, it is where the world has comes together to reaffirm norms and values, and work through the most pressing, shared challenges facing humanity. Our national security is strengthened when we are at the table at the U.N., and the U.N. is more effective with American leadership and values on display.
“In a time when the world is in turmoil, it is in the interest of the American people for the United States to support and maintain the critical alliances and institutions that create stability and prevent more chaos. We have already seen that instability and unrest bring crises to our own door here at home.
“In addition to the United Nations, there should be little debate about the essential role of Euro-Atlantic institutions in maintaining peace and security in Europe and elsewhere since the end of World War II – right up to today.
“Three times in the twentieth century alone, Europe was divided by war and rivalry. Today, Europe faces its challenges, but the progress in creating a stable and free Europe through such institutions as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has contributed immeasurably to European peace, stability and prosperity and to American strength, well-being, and leadership in the world as well. The vitality and endurance of these institutions serves the interests of the United States
“I am therefore particularly disturbed by President-elect Trump’s comments over the weekend that NATO is ‘obsolete.’ NATO is not obsolete. Vladimir Putin wishes it were, but it is not. So I am anxious to hear your views, Governor Haley, on NATO and the importance of our alliances. We need to be reassuring our allies, not threatening to abandon them.
“With strong and sustained U.S. leadership, the United Nations will continue to be an indispensable force for a better world. America’s ambassador to the U.N. is essential to that effort. Governor Haley, I look forward to hearing from you today and learning more about how you view America’s role in the United Nations and how, if confirmed, you would advance America’s interests and stand up for our core values.”