Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Multilateralism and the Role of the United Nations

Ambassador Nikki Haley
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 9, 2018



Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. And thank you to all the briefers.

In a short time I will be leaving the Security Council and the post as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. My service here has been a great honor and I will miss it. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to discuss the purposes of multilateralism and what we can do to make the United Nations a more effective instrument of the common good.

The American people believe deeply in the principles of peace, security, and human rights in the UN Charter.

For this reason, the United States is by far the largest contributor to the United Nations budget. Our support for multilateralism at the United Nations has not been limited to rhetoric. It has been concrete, in both our words and our deeds.

Year in and year out, the United States contributes 20 percent of the funding for the United Nations system.

U.S. taxpayers in places like Oklahoma, Idaho, and Minnesota provide 25 percent of the $7 billion budget for the UN peacekeeping operations thousands of miles away in Kinshasa, Juba, Pristina, and elsewhere.

These same taxpayers contribute more than 35 percent of the funding for the world’s largest multilateral humanitarian organization, the World Food Program.

We contribute 13 percent of the funding that allows UNICEF to help children worldwide.

U.S. taxpayers shoulder 42 percent of the burden of paying for the work of the UN Refugee Agency.

The vast size of the financial support the United States gives the United Nations illustrates our seriousness with which we take this work and our commitment.

But I will be honest with you: there are times when the American people question their generous support to the United Nations.

There are times when we are tempted to believe that multilateralism has been a bad deal for the United States; that we could be more effective advancing our principles and interests on our own. And there are times when that conclusion is correct.

It’s not that the American people are cheap. It’s not that we’re selfish. Quite the contrary. We are a blessed nation.

A representative from an African country recently lectured me and quoted biblical passage. He said: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” This is certainly true. And the American people have given much. But multilateralism requires that we all contribute; that we all work together for the common good. Everyone has skin in the game, and everyone should ultimately benefit.

The American people have no expectation of always getting our way. But we do have a legitimate expectation to get a return on our investment for multilateralism. We do not regard this work as charity. It is our contribution to the advancement of peace, security, and human rights in every region of the world.

When we all contribute and work toward these goals, this body can accomplish great things. North Korea is a good example. The Security Council achieved remarkable unity while taking real action.

We sanctioned the Pyongyang regime more completely than any country in a generation. This is a credit to the Security Council and its members. No other multilateral forum could have achieved this kind of unity.

Peacekeeping is another good example. We are more effective when we work to ensure peace as a global community. Together, we can build the trust and impartiality necessary to mediate conflict and protect innocent civilians.

But multilateralism is not good in and of itself. It is a means to an end. It is neither good nor bad – only its goals are good or bad. And multilateralism fails when it fails to support the goals of peace, security, and human rights.

When the General Assembly gives the barbaric Cuban regime a pass for violating the rights of the Cuban people just to poke the United States in the eye, that is a failure of multilateralism.

Action like this doesn’t seek to protect human rights. It seeks to shelter authoritarian regimes from criticism on human rights. It’s not worthy of the time or the attention of the UN. And it’s certainly not worthy of the support of the American people.

When the Human Rights Council hosts some of the world’s most flagrant human rights offenders – and gives them cover for their abuses – that is a failure of multilateralism.

When countries evoke sovereignty when it suits them but ignore it when it doesn’t, that is a failure of multilateralism. That is a failure to work together toward the common good.

One of my goals as U.S. Ambassador has been to show the American people value for their investment in the United Nations. That has meant working to improve efficiency of our peacekeeping missions, end the North Korean nuclear threat, and put human rights at the center of the work for the Security Council, among many other things.

It’s also meant more practical things, like taking a hard look at where our foreign aid is serving U.S. interests and values – and where it isn’t. Our aid dollars shouldn’t be on autopilot. They should go to where they can do the most good and where we can expect cooperation and friendship in return. Showing value to the American people for their support of multilateralism also means re-balancing how we finance the United Nations and our peacekeeping operations.

Next month, we will have an important decision on how we distribute the costs of peacekeeping. The United States is currently assessed a disproportionate share of these costs, even for us.

Our contribution of 25 percent of the peacekeeping budget is more than fair. Insisting on more, especially when other nations’ assessments are so low, only erodes support for the United Nations.

I urge everyone to support more equitable burden sharing when it comes to peacekeeping financing. This is not just a question of fairness. It is a question of the ongoing success of multilateralism itself.

Support for collective action falters when its burdens fail to match its benefits.

And no multilateral work – no matter how worthy its goals – can continue long term when it takes its most generous donors for granted.

I know I’ve spoken some hard truths this morning. But I’ve done so out of my obligation to reflect the American people’s sincere belief in this institution’s founding purpose.

When we work in the true spirit of multilateralism – the spirit of principled objectives, shared burdens, and respect – this institution is capable of great things. The United States looks forward to many more successful years of collaboration with you on behalf of peace, security, and human rights for all people in the world.

Thank you.