Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
March 29, 2023
QUESTION: (Translated.) What are the essential issues for you Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield that are dealt with in the UN Security Council?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The most important issue that we deal with in the Security Council every single day is the issue of peace and security. That’s what we were created for: to deal with issues of peace and security around the globe. Now, that means that every single time we’re there, three to four times a week, we might be dealing with different regions of the world. Of course, Ukraine is front and center on almost a weekly basis. I think there’s a meeting happening today at the Security Council called by the Ukrainians on Ukraine.
But we also deal with other issues. For example, for this region, why it’s so important to have Ecuador on the Council, we’re dealing with issues related to Haiti; we’re dealing with the Colombian peace plan; we’re dealing with migration issues where Ecuador’s voice is an important voice to bring the regional perspective – to bring your own perspective, but also to bring the regional perspective to the table when we’re sitting at the Council. And I have to say, it has been an extraordinary – for me, an extraordinary reward to have Ecuador on the Council, to have Ecuador taking principled stands on, for example, the issue of Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, to have Ecuador bring the regional perspective to the table where I may not have the same perspective; I can hear the perspective of my colleagues, and those perspectives are important for others to hear across the Council.
QUESTION: (Translated.) Sometime ago you were talking about the importance of being at the Council due to the capacity there is in the Council for listening to all of the countries. So, what makes the Security Council’s work relevant for Latin America, the Caribbean, and Ecuador?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: That is probably the most important question for this audience, and I think for Ecuador. There are issues that we deal with on the Council that Latin America needs to have its voice heard. Today that voice is being heard through Ecuador. There are issues, as I mentioned, related to Haiti, related to Colombia, but not just issues in this region. Look at DPRK. DPRK has fired seven nuclear – tested seven nuclear weapons* over the course of this year, and we have not called them out – over the course of two years** and we’ve not called them out on it. They’ve broken numerous Security Council resolutions. Hearing the voice of Ecuador on that issue in the DPRK – on the DPRK is very important.
We’ve had 20 DPRK open Security Council meetings in the past two years, and yet they continue to test. So, they need to hear that it is not just the United States but it is the rest of the world – it is Latin America, it is Africa, it’s other countries in Asia that speak out against what they are doing.
Hearing what is happening in Iran as it relates to women. We saw women being killed on the streets in Iran because they didn’t wear their hijab correctly. The world needs to hear your voices on those issues as well.
So, it’s not just the issues in your region; it’s global issues where you have a say in what the Security Council discusses, and you have a say in what the Security Council decides.
QUESTION: (Translated.) As a woman, you have followed an empowered women’s tradition of leading the U.S. Mission to the UN since 2013: Susan Rice, Rosemary DiCarlo, Samantha Power, Michele Sison, Nikki Haley, Kelly Craft, and now you. By having been charged with the very important responsibility of representing the U.S. before the Council, how do you consider that you will continue to fuel equal participation of women in decision making processes?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you so much for that question, and we have been a long – have had a long list of women PRs at the United Nations. One name you didn’t mention was Madeleine Albright, who was a mentor to so many of us, who passed away last year. And I really do feel that of all of the previous women PRs, I really looked to her as a model for what I should be doing in the Security Council.
But we have been very, very clear: One of our priorities in the Security Council – and I think we’ve all agreed on that – is that women, peace, and security issues have to be front and center. They have to be included in every resolution. We have to ensure that women’s voices are heard in the Council, as well as women’s voices are heard from civil society. So, we regularly bring civil society voices to the Council and we insist that those voices include women.
We have worked very hard, for example, to hold Iran accountable for the situation in Iran where this young woman lost her life, and we were able – and I think it had to do with the fact that there are five women on the Security Council right now, but a huge number of women in the General Assembly, and we all pushed that Iran should not sit on the Commission for the Status of Women given what they were doing against women in Iran. And we won that vote, and that was extraordinarily important. (Applause.)
And I’ll leave with one comment about Madeleine Albright again. When Madeleine Albright was on the Security Council, she formed a group called the Group of Seven, and so she told me about that when I took the job. And so, when I got to New York and I found that there were only five women on the Security Council, I call Madeleine and I say, “We have lost ground since you were here.” And she said, “No, there were only seven women in the entire General Assembly” when she was there. And now we’re almost 50, I think, or at least close to 50, and there are five of us sitting on the Security Council. And we do work very, very diligently to make sure that the voices of women are not forgotten.
QUESTION: (Translated.) In the last year, the Security Council has been paralyzed regarding fundamental aspects of peace and security mainly due to lack of agreement among the permanent members, and important topics have been left aside like the excessive use of force in the Israel/Palestinian conflict. So how can we untangle the agenda of the Security Council and what is the role of non-permanent members of trying to move forward in this process?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: I would get the tough question. (Laughter.) No, we hear a lot of commentary that the Security Council is not functioning because of the P5. There are issues that we disagree on, but believe it or not, there are a lot of issues where we actually do agree. We were able to get a resolution on Haiti through the Security Council. We were able to get the Syrian border crossings extended with all members of the Council voting for that resolution. And if you look back, there’ve been a number of resolutions where the entire Council has supported those resolutions. It is rare, for example, for the United States to use its veto power. We’ve – it hasn’t happened, and I should knock on wood, since I joined the Council.
The areas where we have difficulty – of course, Ukraine. You have a member of the Security Council attacking the UN Charter. We’re not going to come together on that issue in the Security Council, which is why we’ve moved the power to the General Assembly, and we’ve won every single time we’ve gone before the General Assembly on votes against Russia. And I thank Ecuador for your support on that.
As it relates to Israel and Palestine, the U.S. position has been clear. We support a two-state solution that will provide peace and security and safety for both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and we discourage efforts by either side that take actions that will move us further away from that. The Council did agree to a PRST last month on Israel-Palestine.
So, we find areas where we can cooperate. We know the areas we’re not going to cooperate on. We are strong – the United States – on human rights. We tend to have intense disagreements with the Russians and the Chinese, who don’t want human rights brought into the Council. Human rights are peace and security issues. We need to address those issues in the Council. We need to address issues related to women, peace, and security in the Council, because it’s about peace and security broadly.
So, I will continue to look for those areas where we can cooperate, but I will fight tooth and nail on those areas where we have disagreements, and those disagreements question the values and the rules of the road for how the UN Charter should be implemented and how it should be viewed.
*seven ballistic – tested seven ballistic missiles
** this year