Opening Statement by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a HFAC Hearing on Engagement with the United Nations

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
Washington, D.C.
June 16, 2021


Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Ranking Member McCaul and distinguished committee members. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today.

Two weeks ago, I visited the sole remaining border crossing that the UN Security Council has authorized for the delivery of humanitarian assistance into Syria. A majority of Syrians across northwestern Syria – millions of adults and children – rely on our aid to survive. COVID has only exacerbated the dire humanitarian situation. And as one refugee said to me, COVID – and I’ll quote her – COVID is just another reason to die.

At the Bab al Hawa border crossing, every month, more than one thousand truckloads of food, clean water, medical supplies – funded in great part by the United States – are delivered by the UN to thousands of Syrians in desperate need. I had the privilege of meeting the UN and NGO humanitarian workers on the frontlines of this massive aid operation. The real-life superheroes work around the clock to deliver assistance and to save lives. Their efforts – and this crossing – represent the best of the international community. And the crossing shows why the United Nations needs America to be engaged and leading the way.

Last year, Russia led efforts to close two other humanitarian crossings into Syria – constricting aid at precisely the time the pandemic hit and needs soared. Soon, the Security Council will vote on the fate of the last remaining crossing. For countless Syrians, this is a life-or-death vote. This is but one example of how our leadership at the United Nations matters.

The Biden-Harris administration believes that at its best, the United Nations can advance peace, security, and prosperity for Americans and people across the globe. But as with all institutions, realizing this vision requires hard work, commitment, and leadership. As the UN Ambassador, and as a member of the President’s cabinet, that is my mission.

During our presidency of the Security Council in March, we brought renewed focus to chronic and emerging humanitarian situations around the globe, from the coup in Burma to the crisis in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Secretary Blinken chaired a meeting on the Syrian humanitarian situation, to bring attention to the conflict on its tragic tenth anniversary. I hosted a high-level debate on conflict-driven hunger – highlighting how starvation is used as a weapon of war in places like Yemen, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. President Biden hosted UN Security Council ambassadors at the White House for a virtual meeting to underscore our commitment to multilateralism and working together to end the pandemic. And the Vice President became the highest-ranking U.S. government official to ever lead our delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women – a poignant highlight of Women’s History Month. We also signaled our return to leadership in tackling climate change – rejoining the Paris Agreement and bringing together nations for a first-of-its-kind White House Climate Summit.

Of course, our most pressing challenge is COVID. If we don’t succeed in coming together to end the pandemic, nothing else matters. This is why President Biden announced the United States is donating 580 million vaccine doses. I was particularly proud of the President’s contribution of vaccines to frontline UN personnel – like those superheroes I mentioned in Turkey. Additionally, I convened a global forum, led by the Vice President, focused on learning the lessons of COVID-19 before the next pandemic begins.

The United States is bringing our leadership to bear on other global challenges, too – from addressing threats to women and girls, to systemic racism, to maintaining peace and security, and to bolstering democracy around the globe. In particular, we have worked tirelessly and multilaterally to bring an end to the conflict in Israel and Gaza.

If you take anything away from my message today, it should be that the United Nations – and the world – needs U.S. leadership. When we leave a vacuum, others who do not share our values and priorities are eager to step in. The goal of those who work against us is clear: to create a more favorable international environment for authoritarianism.

To adapt a phrase from President Biden, at the United Nations, we are in a battle for the soul of the world. This is why it is critical for the United States to lead. That means paying our dues in full and on time; aiding humanitarian and pandemic recovery efforts; expanding opportunities for American citizens to pursue careers at the United Nations; and ensuring our U.S. diplomatic corps doesn’t remain understaffed and under-resourced. And it means relentlessly pursuing reforms across the UN system. Our adversaries and competitors are investing in the United Nations. We can’t expect to compete unless we do, too.

I intend to be a strong leader on behalf of the United States at the United Nations and to do so in close cooperation with this body. I know the UN Ambassador has not visited this committee in some time, and I am pleased to change that, and to work in partnership with Congress to advance our nation’s interests at the UN.

I’m honored to be here with you today and I welcome your questions.