Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN General Assembly Briefing on the Secretary-General’s 2022 Priorities

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
January 21, 2022


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, for sharing the issues that are at the top of your agenda for this year.

Mr. Secretary-General, your proposed reforms could not be more timely. Because right now, the pandemic rages on. The climate is in crisis. Our digital freedoms are in danger. Human rights are in peril. And peace and security are threatened across the globe. The world needs the United Nations at its best and we need your leadership at this critical moment.

Before we do anything else, we need to do everything we can to end this pandemic and build back better. The United Nations is uniquely poised to lead the way on this – particularly on global health security and with development investments for the low- and middle-income countries most acutely affected by the economic fallout of COVID-19.

We must work together to make the right investments – ones which adhere to internationally accepted standards, build local capacity, prevent corruption, and improve local resilience against climate change and disasters. Which leads me to the existential threat of climate change.

As President Biden made clear in Glasgow, this is the decisive decade. We need to act, with urgency and ambition. The climate crisis is exactly the kind of great global challenge the United Nations is made to address. By working together, we can limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and preserve our shared future.

This is also the moment to promote the responsible use of digital and emerging technologies. Like the pandemic and climate change, digital freedom and responsibility affects all of us. The UN can help foster inclusive dialogue and ensure we all adhere to norms and standards that reflect universal rights and meet global needs. Mr. Secretary-General, you have shown strong leadership on this issue, and we look forward to working with you to promote a digital future that is free, open, inclusive, and secure – not just for some, but for all.

Finally, let us remember the reason for the UN’s founding, stated clearly in the very first pages of our charter: to defend human rights and maintain international peace and security. In 2023, we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and 30 years of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action. This is an opportunity to take stock and update our thinking, because we have to put human rights front and center in our work. And if we are not making human rights a priority, then we are not doing our job. Similarly, nothing threatens this organization’s credibility like our inaction in the face of violence and human suffering.

Mr. Secretary-General, we are counting on your vigor, on your courage, on your principled leadership to help us address some of the most dangerous and intractable conflicts and their devastating impact to everyday people. So, thank you again, Mr. President and Mr. Secretary-General, for the briefing today. We are eager to work together with you all this year to achieve this ambitious agenda and make the world a safer place for all.