Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Diversity, State Building, and the Search for Peace

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 12, 2021


Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you so much for chairing this meeting today, but also for the important message you just delivered to us. I would also like to thank the Secretary-General, President Kagame, President Mbeki for your briefings today, and I would particularly like to highlight Ms. Koofi’s message and to thank her for the message she provided to us today, but also for the important work she continues to do to promote peace and security.

I’ve spent more than half of my life traveling the world as part of my career. And in every single place I’ve been, I have experienced and I have seen racism, including in my own country. And I bring this up to acknowledge a simple fact: there is no society, no region, no country that does not face division over diversity. Our discussion today on how we can prevent and stop conflict based on identity must acknowledge this. This is a problem we all share in different ways and that we must all work together to resolve.

For our part, the United States believes in being fully transparent about our shortcomings, and we do not claim to be perfect. Instead, we aim, every single day, to form that more perfect union and to strive for justice in our own country. In July, when the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report on racism and police brutality against Africans and people of African descent, we not only acknowledged the examination of these cases in the United States, but we also issued a standing invitation to both the Special Rapporteurs on contemporary forms of racism and minority rights to visit the United States.

Addressing brutality and advancing racial equity is a core priority of the Biden-Harris Administration. We encourage every community and country to look internally to advance diversity and inclusion, to be fully transparent about these formidable challenges, and to work tirelessly to end racism, sexism, ablism, religious discrimination, and xenophobia.

We must also collaborate with the UN and others to not only ameliorate conflict but prevent and address the fundamental sources of conflict. The Secretary-General’s Common Agenda notably and rightfully includes aspects of addressing racism, discrimination, and inequality. We need to put in greater protections for all racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, people with disabilities, LGBTQI+ people, as well as indigenous people. This is particularly true for the many and burgeoning places where conflict has broken out, mainly as a result of identity. And I need not say that, because of these issues, we deal with them almost on a weekly basis here at the Security Council. In situations most vulnerable to this type of threat, regional and subregional organizations should take a more comprehensive approach, including through prevention, peacekeeping, peacemaking, peacebuilding, as well as counterterrorism. And all of us must work together to promote human rights, democracy, and the rule of law – and we need to particularly do it here, in the Security Council.

The Peacebuilding Commission has an important convening role to play in this work, and it helps mobilize attention and commitment to international peacebuilding efforts. Strong local partnerships and international cooperation are critical elements in fostering stability and resilience – particularly in fragile states. The Women, Peace, and Security Agenda has a vital role to play here, too. Women make the world more peaceful and should be empowered to meaningfully participate in these efforts. Without women we will not achieve the progress that we seek.

The stated cause of these conflicts is myriad, but the root causes are often the same: inequality, discrimination, fear, hatred. Social media may amplify these forces; they create an echo chamber and they fuel much of the disinformation that causes extreme hatred. But ultimately, the root causes are nothing new. They are the same root causes that have always driven racial, ethnic, regional, partisan, and religious conflict. Working together, we can take away the power of these divisive forces – not by shying away from diversity and inclusion, but by embracing them.

This is why I champion people-to-people diplomacy. When you meet someone in person, and you’re able to look at them face-to-face, and you hear about their goals and their dreams, hatred is harder.

Now, I am not naïve. Not everyone lets hate in their hearts disappear easily. But many people die because of this hatred. And I believe, fundamentally, to my core, that embracing diversity and celebrating your identity – and the identities of those different from you – are some of the most effective ways we can spread peace and security in the world. This work has great urgency, Mr. President, and we must use the extraordinary power of our example to demonstrate our unwavering commitment to inclusion. And together, let us work to promote diversity, to prevent conflict, to save lives, to build a more peaceful world.

And thank you again, Mr. President, for convening this important discussion.