Remarks at the Fourth Committee Joint General Debate Intervention

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
Senior Advisor for Special Political Affairs
New York, New York
November 3, 2021


Thank you, Chair, distinguished representatives. I would like to start by thanking the Chair for her distinguished stewardship of this Committee, for keeping everything on time and in order, and for fostering meaningful dialogue and participation.

I would like to also thank the Fourth Committee Bureau and Secretariat for the extraordinary efforts to organize this year’s proceedings despite the enormous global challenges we have all endured. The United States appreciates everyone who helped us return to in-person meetings safely.

Despite this enormous progress, we are all still grappling with this devastating pandemic that continues to claim lives in every corner of the world. As President Biden proclaimed here in September, “our shared grief is a poignant reminder that our collective future will hinge on our ability to recognize our common humanity and to act together.” The United States is committed to working with our partners to alleviate this pandemic and build back a better collective future.

At home, the United States has ensured our local governments and communities have the tools and resources to combat the impact of COVID-19. We have prioritized this commitment across all states and territories, without distinction. In doing so, the United States provided over $26 million in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

This funding provided our territorial governments the means to respond to the pandemic’s devastating economic and social effects.  It provided lifesaving medical equipment and testing kits to the people of American Samoa. It provided vaccines and protective gear to the frontline workers and people of Guam. It provided food security and paycheck protection to suffering communities in the U.S. Virgin Islands. We have provided—and will continue to provide—an urgent lifeline to protect families and communities across all U.S. states and territories.

With regards to mine action, the United States is proud to be the world’s single largest financial supporter of humanitarian mine action.  Since 1993, we have invested more than $4.2 billion in conventional weapons destruction assistance—including mine action—in over 100 countries.  We have ensured that delivery of this crucial, life-saving assistance continued through the pandemic.  In 2021 alone, funding reached more than $235 million, despite the significant logistical challenges due to the pandemic.

Turning to the stars, the United States welcomes the work of the Committee on the Peaceful Use of Outer Space. Over the past six decades, it has fostered international cooperation in the peaceful exploration and ever-expanding use of outer space to the benefit all of humanity.

The work of the Committee remains crucial, and we were pleased to co-sponsor the recent adoption of the Space2030 Agenda. This framework provides a path to help ensure implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the additional ongoing work to implement the guidelines for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.

The United States reaffirms its belief that the principles enshrined in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, as well as other applicable international obligations, guide the full range of governmental and private sector space activities.  These include space debris mitigation, the long-term sustainability of outer space activities, and space resource utilization—all important areas of international cooperation where this Committee has primary responsibility within the UN system.

We look forward to further discussion with the Committee on the Artemis Accords as a framework to guide the cooperative future exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond in a safe, sustainable, responsible, and transparent manner.

As a founding member of the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation – UNSCEAR – the United States is a longstanding supporter of the Committee’s work and the technical and scientific recommendations and reporting it provides regarding the global health impacts of atomic radiation.

We are concerned about the substantial increases in the use of radiation, as well as major nuclear accidents, and the implications of these trends from a public health standpoint, as reported by UNSCEAR.

We are also paying close attention to the increasing risks of climate change and natural disasters may have on facilities dealing with radioactive materials.  We welcome more discussion addressing the nexus between risks associated with climate change and their impact on nuclear facilities.

Finally, we are also closely following recent reports regarding management challenges within the Scientific Committee.  The Secretary-General’s August report emphasizes that the Committee expressed “serious concern” about its “ability to successfully implement its planned program of work in a timely manner, in particular regarding the increased number of experts involved in its ongoing evaluations.” Further increases in membership should support and not undermine UNSCEAR’s ability to continue its important work on radiation safety, including with respect to the effectiveness and efficiency of UNSCEAR operations.

Turning to agenda items 54 and 55, the United States continues to oppose the annual submission of a number of resolutions biased against Israel. And while we note that there are fewer texts than in years past, much of the problematic content remains. This one-sided approach only undermines trust between the parties and fails to create the kind of positive international environment critical to achieving peace.

We believe Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live safely and securely, with equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy. The United States reaffirms our commitment to this vision. We continue to work closely with our friends in the Middle East and beyond to advance implementation of the Abraham Accords and other normalization efforts.

More is required for humanitarian relief and recovery in Gaza. The United States provided more than $318 million to UNRWA this year, but the agency still faces a huge budget shortfall. We encourage member states to provide additional financial and material assistance to help meet the needs of the people of Gaza, including by funding UNRWA, so the organization can continue its important work to run schools and provide health services for Palestinian families.

We reiterate our view UNRWA needs reforms to improve its financial sustainability. To this end we will work with UNRWA to strengthen the Agency’s accountability, and transparency, and to ensure it consistently abides by UN principles, including neutrality and impartiality.

We are pleased to co-sponsor the University for Peace resolution this year as a signal of our commitment to this institution. We laud the University for Peace, and its host country Costa Rica, for their noble mission to train the next generation of practitioners in such important fields as security and the environment, sustainable development, and gender studies.

Madame Chair, distinguished representatives, in closing let me reiterate the United States’ commitment to the important work this committee considers each year. From combatting climate and pandemic disinformation, to monitoring the global health impacts of atomic radiation. From navigating the difficult road from conflict by laying the conditions to lasting peace around the world, to fostering peaceful cooperation in the cosmos beyond. Let us all commit to working together to move forward the diverse, complex, and essential work of this committee. Thank you.