Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 3, 2020
Thank you, Mrs. President. Prime Minister Gonsalves, thank you to you and your team for organizing this high-level discussion today. We welcome St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ first Security Council presidency and we are so are excited to work with you and your team here in New York.
Thank you as well to the briefers today – Amina Mohammed, Ibrahim Mayaki, Hilary Beckles, and Munir Akram – for the work that you and your teams have done to make our world a safer place.
Sadly, we are living in a world where violent conflict is increasingly common after years of decline. We know that violence begets more violence. It distorts social norms, undermines institutions, and destroys countries and lives. Fragile states are particularly susceptible to destabilizing violence and armed conflict – and its everyday citizens that pay the price.
We know that conflict and violence are often exacerbated by environmental factors. Exploitation of minerals, including precious metals and gemstones, timber, and wildlife often finance conflict; and the associated environmental degradation and social upheaval can undermine prospects for peace.
In Venezuela, for example, the illegitimate Maduro regime is complicit in, and profiting from, the illegal gold mining that is devastating the environment and indigenous populations across the southern part of the country. Armed criminal groups, including some from Colombia designated as terrorists, are stripping the land of its resources in an attempt to propagate the conflict and exacerbate the deprivation faced by the Venezuelan people.
Fragile states are also susceptible to destabilizing threats because of the interference of external malign actors. We have expressed increasing concern about some states using their influence in fragile states, gained by sovereign loans and debt obligations, to promote undemocratic governance practices. The resulting corruption, diminished respect for the rule of law, and authoritarianism further raise the risk for violent conflict and instability in those countries over the long term.
One of the greatest offenders is Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror. Iran has used its malign influence to propagate violence throughout the Middle East. Through its direct military role and that of its proxy, the terrorist organization Hezbollah in supporting the murderous Assad regime, it has played a central role in creating the refugee crisis; to a humanitarian tragedy and extended conflict in Yemen, due to its arms transfers to the Houthis; and to unrest in Iraq, thanks to its support of Shia militias. It exports arms to its partners, proxies, and terrorist organizations that destabilize the region, in contravention of UN arms embargoes. Iran is deepening, widening, and extending these conflicts. We must not allow this to continue.
The Trump Administration remains committed to thwarting the attempts of malign actors like the regime in Iran that crushes dissent in its own country while creating instability in other countries. Our sanctions programs are designed to constrain the ability of bad actors, like Iran, to take advantage of our financial system or threaten the United States, our allies and partners, and civilians. Despite the false accusations from some members of this Council, our sanctions do not target humanitarian-related assistance or activity. Rather, we often, and in many circumstances proactively, exclude this type of activity from our sanctions programs.
The U.S. government also utilizes targeted foreign assistance as a tool to thwart the drivers of conflict. Roughly 50 percent of all U.S. foreign assistance today goes to fragile states, including 70 percent of U.S. Agency for International Development’s assistance. In the past five years, the United States has spent approximately $30 billion in foreign assistance in the 15 most fragile countries as indicated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The United States also continues to lead the world’s contributions to UN peacekeeping operations, contributing 25 percent of the UN peacekeeping budget – a key tool in advancing international peace and security and addressing the root causes of conflict.
President Trump reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to conflict prevention and addressing vulnerability when he signed the Global Fragility Act of 2019. Among other things, this important U.S. legislation places local solutions, ownership, and accountability at the heart of the U.S. approach to building resilience.
Mr. Prime Minister and Mrs. President, we know countries with higher rates of gender inequality are more vulnerable to conflict. The United States prioritizes the meaningful participation of women in efforts to prevent and resolve conflict, and promotes the safety of women and girls in conflict and crisis. Our global leadership and commitment to this issue was demonstrated when President Trump signed the U.S. Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2017 – followed by the Administration’s release of our bold and innovative United States Women, Peace, and Security Strategy in June 2019.
The U.S. remains actively engaged in diplomatic efforts to resolve conflict worldwide. Just a few weeks ago, President Trump hosted a historic signing ceremony where Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of the UAE and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords Declaration and formally agreed to normalization with Israel – the first such agreements between Israel and Arab countries since 1994. On October 23, Sudan, which has renounced terrorism, followed suit, taking the historic step to agree to normalize relations with Israel and begin economic and trade relations. The Abraham Accords provide a foundation for further advances toward regional peace. These leaders are boldly choosing a future of mutual understanding, coexistence, and prosperity for their people – they are endorsing a culture of peace.
As one of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group addressing the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the United States is working with the parties of conflict for a cessation of hostilities and an urgent resumption of dialogue without preconditions to reach political settlement through a negotiated solution.
In Syria, the political process outlined in Resolution 2254 remains the only legitimate way to address the brutality of the Assad regime that started the conflict a decade ago. The United States remains fully committed to the implementation of Resolution 2254 to secure the future of peace and prosperity to the Syrian people.
The United States is committed to conflict prevention and mitigation, and we will continue to use all available diplomatic tools and economic tools to address drivers of conflict that make fragile states susceptible to destabilizing violence and armed conflict. We hope all UN Member States will join us in making our world safer and more peaceful. Our job, all of our jobs, at the United Nations the last 75 years has been “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” Let’s double our efforts to make that vision come true.