Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s Interview with Hayde Adams of VOA’s Straight Talk Africa

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 1, 2023


QUESTION: You announced in recent days, around $524 million in drought aid for the Horn of Africa. U.S. aid to the region for 2023 now stands at around $1.4 billion. Ma’am, is that enough? I mean, how far does, and can, this money go towards addressing what you have called a storm of crises that has pushed millions across the Horn of Africa to the brink?

AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Hayde, it is not enough. The UN has asked for $7 billion. So what you heard announced is just a small contribution toward addressing a major global issue, and that is hunger. It is famine in the Horn of Africa. Our $524 million was a huge contribution – it’s the largest contribution. It brings our total for the fiscal year to about 2.5 billion, but more is needed.

I visited Somalia earlier in the year and made a strong appeal to the rest of the world that they should be assisting in the situation. Children should not starve to death, people should not go to bed hungry. We have the resources to address this issue. We just have to come to the table and bring the needed resources to those people in need. And I think we can do more.

QUESTION: Ma’am, I want to turn to this South Africa Russia weapons controversy that has taken place in recent weeks. How would you describe the relationship between South Africa and the United States at the moment? I mean, are there limits to this relationship?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we have a strong historical relationship with South Africa, and that relationship is going to continue based on the priorities of the American people and of the South African people. We will continue to find ways to work with each other to bring those priorities to the table, whether it’s trade or it’s development assistance. It’s finding pathways for America and South Africa to continue to have conversations on the things that we are prioritizing in our relationship.

QUESTION: Ma’am, South Africa has taken of course, what it calls a non-aligned stance when it comes to Russia’s war in Ukraine. In your view is South Africa acting like a country that is taking a non-aligned stance in this war?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Look, we’ve also been very clear on this issue as well, Hayde. There is no neutrality when a member of the P5 attacks a smaller nation – as Russia has done – an unprovoked aggression against Ukraine. You can’t be neutral on that. This is a violation of everything that the UN Charter stands for. And we’ve made that point clear to all of our partners who have taken the stance of neutrality when it comes to what is clearly an aggression, which is against the sovereignty and the integrity of a border of an independent country.

QUESTION: Ma’am, what will the United States do if Vladimir Putin shows up? In South Africa for the BRICS conference?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, I think that question should be what will South Africa do if Putin shows up? South Africa has obligations under international agreements, under the ICC, to turn over an individual who has been convicted.* So the question should be to South Africa. We hope South Africa will do the right thing.

QUESTION: On sanctions, do you rule out sanctions at any point? You once said that countries complain about sanctions because they work. Do you foresee sanctions on the horizon? Should South Africa host Vladimir Putin?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We’re not going to get into our private conversations with the South African government, but we have made clear that there are obligations that we hope and expect that South Africa will honor.

QUESTION:  Ma’am, as you lead the U.S. delegation to the second session of the UN Permanent Forum of People of African descent, I want to talk a little bit about U.S.-Africa relations at the United Nations. Do you anticipate in coming months any opportunities to strengthen U.S.-Africa relations? And do you anticipate those relations, those ties, will be tested especially at the UN in coming months?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: You know, that is an extraordinarily important question that you asked Hayde. We work every day to strengthen our relationship with the continent of Africa. For me personally, it is a strong commitment. As you know, I spent most of my career on the African continent. I spend the vast majority of my time meeting with the 54 African Member States on a regular basis. There is an A3, the elected members of the Security Council, I engage with them on a regular basis. And our government is strongly committed to continuing to really build on what is already a strong partnership with the African continent. We are the largest donor to countries in Africa – to humanitarian programs, development programs. We are a big trade partner on the continent of Africa, and we want to continue to nourish those relationships both here in New York, but also on the continent.

QUESTION: Ma’am, the Africans have for the longest time called for a more permanent role at the UN Security Council. Is there any progress that has been made on that front?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That’s something that we’re working on every single day. You may recall that last year in September, I gave a speech in San Francisco, in which I indicated that we were supportive of African countries and others – we were supportive of UN reform – to include more permanent members, as well as elected members. The President went further in his speech in September, and specifically said that we would support permanent membership for Africa, Latin America, as well as the Caribbean. Since then, I have engaged in a listening tour. I’ve met with the C10 – the 10 African countries that are engaged on UN reform. I’ve met individually with African countries, as well as other regions, to talk about how we might implement and really instrumentalize this, this commitment to the continent, to UN reform. And this is something that we’re continuing to work on. But we have been clear throughout this that we do support permanent membership for Africa – on the Security Council for a country from Africa.

QUESTION: Ma’am, finally, I want to move to the conflict in Sudan. That country’s army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has asked the UN to replace its special envoy to that country, Volker Perthes. What does this mean for U.S. and UN efforts to help bring an end to the conflict in Sudan? I mean, what influence, what diplomatic tools, do the UN and the U.S. now have at their disposal to help bring an end to the conflict?

AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, as you know, we have been actively engaged since day one in trying to find a solution. The U.S. government, working with the Saudi government, has held a number of meetings in Jeddah that got the two sides to agree to a ceasefire to allow for humanitarian assistance. It’s still a work in progress. And as the U.S. and Saudi Arabia continue to work on this, we are very supportive of those efforts here at the United Nations. We have had a number of meetings in the Security Council on the situation in Sudan. We support the African Union and IGAD efforts, these regional efforts, and we will keep putting pressure on the two sides to move toward a ceasefire that will allow for a civilian run government. And that is something that I think has the support across the board, both on the continent of Africa, but also here at the United Nations.

QUESTION: Alright, we’re going to leave it there. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield, madam, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.