Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 1, 2022
Hi. My name is Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and I have the honor of serving as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
It’s my job to work with other Member States to advance human rights and democracy, tackle climate change and public health threats, address humanitarian crises and food insecurity, and, of course, prevent and end brutal conflicts, like Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine.
These are weighty challenges. And they’re challenges we cannot solve alone. That’s exactly why I’m so pleased to be speaking with all of you today. Because I firmly believe that the business community has a central role to play in all of this work. And I know you do, too.
You are here today because you understand that ethical business practices matter just as much as profits. That companies have a responsibility to prioritize the economic, environmental, and social impacts of their operations. And you are here today because you are committed to eliminating child and forced labor. Full stop.
In that vein, I urge all of you to stand up to the horrors we’re seeing in Xinjiang – where individuals of primarily ethnic Uyghur or Muslim backgrounds are being subject to forced labor through government programs. Economic pressure exerted from businesses helps deter these atrocities – and supplements political pressure and activism.
That’s true in the context of conflict, too. So, I also urge you to follow the lead of so many U.S. companies who have taken concrete action in response to Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Nike, Starbucks, and McDonald’s announced they would close stores in Russia. Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase both said they would wind down business. And BP announced that it would sell its almost 20 percent stake in Rosneft, the Russian state-run oil company. You also now can’t get Netflix, or new Disney, or Warner Bros releases in Russia. And packages will be stuck there because FedEx and DHL also suspended services to the country. The list goes on. And the impact of these efforts is unquestionable.
And while you help us hold Moscow accountable, we also ask for your help in supporting the civilians who bear the burden of Moscow’s war. The United Nations has determined that nearly 16 million people need assistance due to the crisis. I met with some of these individuals during my recent travels to the region. Most were women and children. They long for peace; they long for a day when they can rebuild. But right now, they simply need food and other critical supplies. And the Global Compact has outlined in detail how businesses can help refugees and others affected by the crisis with financial assistance and in-kind donations.
I leave you with this: I believe wholeheartedly in your ability to bolster human rights and make change. Over 15,000 corporate signatures in the 160 countries are now part of the UN Global Compact. Your collective power is immense. Some of the United States’ largest and most influential companies are engaged in this initiative. And I encourage any organizations that have not yet signed the Compact to join now, because we need you. The intractable problems we face cannot come from governments alone. We need NGOs and civil society, we need academics and scholars, and we most certainly need the business community.
So let’s continue working together to implement and uphold our shared values and advance Sustainable Development Goals.