Remarks at a UN Security Council Debate on Upholding the UN Charter

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 9, 2020


Thank you, Mister President. We’re very glad that you’re with us today, and the United States appreciates that the signature event of Vietnam’s Security Council Presidency is focused on the enduring importance of the UN Charter. We also thank Secretary Guterres and the Chair of the Elders, Mary Robinson, for their remarks.

75 years ago, the nations of the world came together to draft a Charter meant to stand the test of time. Today, we recognize the enduring importance of the Charter precisely because it is built on our faith in fundamental freedoms and human rights, the dignity and worth of every individual, and equal rights for all.

These notions, fundamental to American democracy, have gained broad acceptance over time. We are proud to have played a foundational role in the birth of this institution, and to support the values that inform its central tenets. The Charter reflects a commitment to multilateralism that respects national sovereignty. By creating space for sovereign nations to gather and deliberate, the founding members of the United Nations endeavored to help us overcome disagreements and achieve greater peace and security for the human family.

Unfortunately, to echo a question raised a year ago by Secretary Pompeo, we must ask ourselves: “today, does the United Nations continue to serve its mission faithfully?” And as I raised frequently during the United States’ Presidency of the Security Council last month, the Security Council must acknowledge that inaction, repetition, and intransigence have created a credibility gap. As the body with primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, the Security Council needs to recapture its sense of unity and purpose.

So, as we approach the 75th anniversary, we should stand together to reaffirm our commitment to uphold the core principles of the Charter. The United States is a proud leader, partner, and host country of the United Nations, and we are firmly committed to these principles.

Note, though, that reaffirming a commitment to the Charter means taking seriously our responsibility to act, not merely to talk—to abide by the principles of the Charter, not merely profess support for them. On far too many occasions, we have seen nations that are parties to the Charter suppress human rights, undermine the sovereignty of their neighbors, harm their own citizens, and even deny the right of other nations to exist. This kind of hypocrisy is deeply damaging to the credibility of the United Nations as a whole, and to this body specifically.

The eyes of the world will be on the United Nations during the 75th anniversary, so there is especially urgent need to bolster the Council’s credibility. Through focused and sustained action, the Council can continue to promote accountability in places like Syria—seeking to ensure, among other objectives, that those who use chemical weapons against their own people are held responsible; that those who force thousands of residents to flee their own countries are held to account; and that those who threaten the world with nuclear weapons are stopped.

This work takes time, focus, and commitment, but it is essential. The United States will continue to lead on these issues, seeking close partnerships within this Council and in the broader UN community.

We also recognize the need to reform many parts of the UN to ensure it effectively and efficiently delivers on the mandate of the Charter. UN reform remains a top U.S. priority, as its full realization will ensure the UN is fit for purpose across the three vital pillars of peace and security, development, and management. By reaffirming our commitment to upholding the UN Charter, we can send an important signal to the world: that we maintain the same faith in human rights and human equality as those who signed the Charter in 1945, and that we will continue to act on that faith in hopes of bringing greater peace and security to all people. I hope that each of my colleagues will join with us in reaffirming this commitment in both word and deed.

I would now like to address recent events that are connected to our discussion of the importance of upholding the UN Charter. Last week, the United States took defensive military action against Iranian threats. President Trump’s decision was in direct response to an escalating series of armed attacks in recent months by Iran and Iranian-supported militias on U.S. forces and interests in the region. These attacks are detailed in the letter we submitted pursuant to Article 51 of the UN Charter yesterday. This decision was not taken lightly. For years, Iran and Iranian-supported militias in the region have threatened the lives of Americans and shown unyielding contempt for the authority of the United Nations.

President Trump has made clear that his highest and most solemn duty is the defense of our nation and its citizens. And so, we will act decisively in the exercise of our inherent right of self-defense to protect Americans when necessary, as is recognized under the Charter. As President Trump made clear in remarks delivered yesterday, we want a future—and a great future at that—for Iran. It is a future that people of Iran deserve—one of prosperity at home and harmony with the nations of the world. And so today, I want to reiterate that the United States is ready to work toward and embrace people with all who seek it. Moving forward, we hope to find willing partners in this work.

Thank you.