Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 31, 2023
Good morning to all of you. I would like to make a statement in my national capacity, as I am still President of the Council. But this is in my national capacity. And that’s one of the last times this week – this month – that you will hear me refer to myself as the President since I have less than 24 hours left as the President of the Security Council. Given that, I want to take a moment to highlight all that we were able to accomplish during this month.
We brought global famine and food insecurity to the top of the Council’s agenda – as I have done during all three of my presidencies. And I’m proud to have focused on this issue yet again. This is important to me personally, and this is important to the entire U.S. government. But more importantly, it is important to the people of the world, who are impacted by famine. Who are impacted by food insecurity. People who are the victims of food being used as a weapon of war.
Secretary Blinken was here to chair a Council meeting on the link between conflict and hunger. And during that meeting, the Council unanimously agreed on a Presidential Statement on not using food as a weapon of war. This is the first Council product on combatting food insecurity in years. And it really was a big deal. On top of that, 91 Member States signed on to a communique on ending the use of food as a weapon of war.
And during our presidency, as we focused on food insecurity, we also focused on the important issues of human rights – an issue at the center of the Biden Administration’s foreign policy. We held the first open briefing since 2017 on the human rights situation in the DPRK. And it really was historic, and it was long overdue. And I will say that we had consensus for that meeting. We made human rights a focus of Council meetings throughout the month.
This is a matter of international peace and security and one that belongs in the Security Council. As we approach the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we must defend the dignity and the rights of all. I’m particularly proud that 12 civil society members briefed the Council this month – and that more than two-thirds of these briefers were women.
During our presidency, the Security Council also met to discuss the situation in Ukraine, including Russia’s forcible transfer and deportation of Ukrainian children.
And we held the first open briefing on Sudan since the start of the conflict. As I told the Council, there are credible reports that the Rapid Support Forces and allied militias continue to commit atrocities and other abuses in West Darfur. Atrocities that are an ominous reminder of the horrific events that led the United States to determine in 2004 that genocide had been committed in Darfur. It has been disturbing to see how little attention this conflict has received from the international community – and frankly, from you guys. So I encourage you to pay more attention to what is happening there.
It really has been an honor and a privilege for me to serve as President of the Council. And I wish my colleague, Albania, all the best as they assume the presidency during the most important month of the year for the UN. And that’s during High-Level Week.
And with that, I welcome your questions. And I thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you, thank you so much, Madam Ambassador. How much [was] Russia’s behavior and attitude was an obstacle to fulfill your program for this month?
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: They did their best. They failed. We had an extraordinarily successful month. They – as many of you saw – tried to obstruct the work of the Council. They are isolated in their obstruction. And it is not the kind of behavior that any of us would expect from a Permanent Member of the Security Council.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. Pamela Falk from CBS. A few weeks – as you mentioned – High-Level Week. President Biden, perhaps President Zelenskyy – a lot of world leaders here. What’s your best-case scenario for achieving some breakthroughs in peace in Ukraine, in the Black Sea Initiative, or anything else you think that you might be able to do?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Pamela, High-Level Week is about many different issues, but one of the main areas of work that we will be doing during High-Level Week is the SDG Summit. And we have been working with our colleagues across the UN system to prepare for a successful Summit. This is what is on the minds of so many people here – the impact of achieving the 17 SDG Goals. So that will be front and center. Ukraine, of course, is going to be an important part of what we will be discussing. I understand Albania will host, during High-Level Week, a meeting on Ukraine. And we have heard that President Zelenskyy may be here. So, yes, Ukraine will be at the top of everyone’s agenda as well. None of us want anything – we want – there’s nothing we want more than peace for the people of Ukraine. And I expect that there will be intense pressure on Russia to pull their troops out of Ukraine and allow the Ukrainian people to have peace.
QUESTION: Good morning, Ambassador. Congratulations on a good month. On Gabon – do you have any updates for us? And also, yesterday, with the Mali sanctions regime – things seem to be in limbo. What’s the next step?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: On Gabon, we – as you’ve heard from the State Department, and as well from me – condemn this overthrow of the government. We condemn any military overthrow as we did in the situation in Niger. We are still looking at and trying to get a sense of what is happening on the ground there. But just to be clear: This is something that we all condemn.
And on the Mali sanctions resolution, we were disappointed. This was another example of Russia’s obstructionism, Russia not taking the interests of the people of Mali in account in their actions in the Security Council. Pushing for the lifting of sanctions on weapons coming into Mali is not what the Mali government ought to be thinking about. Mali’s government ought to be focusing its attention on addressing the needs of its people every single day. And so, I was extraordinarily disappointed by what happened yesterday.
QUESTION: But next steps – is there a next step?
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Ask the Russians. [Laughter.] And see what they have to say. They have indicated no. Certainly, we will never give up on trying to find a way, a path forward to be supportive of peace in Mali.