Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 7, 2021
Thank you, so much, for that kind introduction. I’m so honored to be here. Thank you, Peter Yeo, for inviting me here today, and for your tireless advocacy on behalf of the Better World Campaign, the UN Foundation, and all of us who root for the success of U.S.-UN relations. And thank you, to all the UNA-USA members listening, for everything you do. Your work – supporting the goals of the United Nations, and the principles of the UN Charter – is critical to advancing peace, prosperity, and security around the world. And this Week of Action is particularly meaningful, as we do everything we can to reengage and show our support for multilateralism.
The Biden-Harris administration is reengaging with the world, restoring our alliances and our partnerships, and keeping American principles – and the American people – at the center of our foreign policy agenda. Over the past few months, you have seen how we have put those principles into action at the United Nations.
COVID-19 provides a clear example. Because even if we curb the pandemic at home, we won’t stay safe if it’s still raging abroad. That’s why global initiatives like COVAX, which accelerates equity in global vaccine distribution, are so important. As part of our commitment to multilateral reengagement, we are providing up to $4 billion in funding for COVAX. And we’re donating 80 million vaccines by the end of June, working with COVAX and other partners to ensure the delivery and distribution of the vaccines is equitable and follows the science.
And even as we’re working to get the pandemic under control, we’re also making sure we’re prepared for the next one. To start, we have to enhance and reimagine our pandemic preparedness architecture and health financing capabilities. We’re working closely with partners and stakeholders on specific next steps and measurable outcomes in anticipation of UNGA High-Level Week. Our goal is not only to ensure greater pandemic preparedness, but also to significantly enhance transparency, accountability, and oversight going forward.
As the pandemic demonstrates – and as you know better than anyone – the greatest challenges we face are often not contained within our borders. Even more important, we have to shape global solutions, to ensure they are just. On climate change, for example, we know that if we don’t act now, poorer communities and communities of color – especially in the Global South – will suffer the most. That’s because unpredictable and extreme weather will make vital resources, like food and water, even more scarce in impoverished regions. Scarcity spurs desperation. And desperation leads to violence.
What’s more, so many of the world’s most fragile states and regions are the very same ones that are most vulnerable to climate calamities. That’s why we rejoined the Paris Agreement, joined the UN Group of Friends on Climate and Security, and convened the Leaders Summit on Climate. Because even if we wanted to tackle climate change alone, we couldn’t. This is a challenge we have to take on together. The same is true for so many of the issues we are tackling at the UN: from defending human rights; to promoting racial and gender equity; to empowering women and girls; to addressing urgent humanitarian crises; to fostering sustainable development.
Of course, for the UN to do that work successfully, it needs to be adequately supported – both politically and financially. This is something I know you all care deeply about. I want you to know the Biden-Harris administration is committed to fulfilling our financial obligations. Not just to improve the finances and the liquidity of the United Nations, but to ensure it’s a more effective and efficient organization.
As Ralph Bunche put it in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, the United Nations is “the greatest peace organization ever dedicated to the salvation of mankind’s future on earth.” But that’s only true if America is leading the way. If instead we walk away from the table, and allow others to fill the void, the global community suffers – and so do American interests. So together, let’s advocate for American leadership. Let’s ensure the world’s most important diplomatic forum has the support it needs. And let’s do everything we can to strengthen the U.S.-UN partnership, so that we can take the world’s most pressing global challenges together.