May 19, 2022
AMBASSADOR LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Good morning, everyone, and thank you. Thank you for sitting. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I want to start by thanking all of you for making time together today as one mission, and I’m so delighted to see all of you here at one place, at one time. I think this is our first time getting together officially in person, Mr. Secretary, here on the 22nd floor as a team. And I can think of no better occasion than to mark our presidency of the Security Council and to welcome Secretary Blinken back to USUN.
Let me take this opportunity to say, as I try to with fervent regularity, how proud I am of every single one of you here in this room. We’re not done yet, but already it’s been an enormously successful month, from our important meeting on Ukraine, to a renewed focus on Syria, to honoring Secretary Albright at a moving memorial, to shining a spotlight on food insecurity throughout the week.
But I also don’t want to forget what we’ve done for the past year. We have been on a rollercoaster, sprinting, and we are winning every single race. And it’s only because of all of you. So let me just thank all of you and encourage you to give yourself a hand of applause. (Applause.)
Don’t get too comfortable. (Laughter.) Because we’ve got a lot more to come, including our second signature event on the world of digital technologies and the annual debate on the protection of civilians in conflict. So thank you all for the work that you’ve done this month, every month, to make our work here a success and to advance our values at the UN and around the world.
Now, I’m pleased to introduce a person who needs no introduction, Secretary Blinken, for his second town hall meeting with us. And I know Secretary Blinken is thrilled to be back in New York today and not just because this is his hometown, but he’s deeply invested in our mission here at the UN. The Secretary’s eager to share his thoughts and to hear from you, so I’ll turn the floor over to him. So everyone, please join me in welcoming our Secretary of State. (Applause.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. It is wonderful to see everyone in the same place in this spectacular room. For me, it is always great to be back in New York for that. Yankees, Giants, Knicks, Rangers. (Laughter.)
AMBASSADOR THOMAS-GREENFIELD: There you go. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Got to get that on the table. (Laughter.)
I just want to start by saying, first of all, thank you to this extraordinary leadership team – Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Ambassador Mills, DeLaurentis, Lu, Carty, and somewhere in here the heart and soul of USUN in Washington, Jeff Prescott. To each and every one of you, as Linda said, thank you, thank you, thank you.
Virtually everything that we are doing, trying to do around the world to benefit the American people, our fellow citizens for the most part, comes together here in this mission. Whether it’s dealing with COVID, whether it’s dealing with climate, whether it’s figuring out how we shape these emerging technologies, whether it’s grappling with a food security crisis that is taking hold of the world, exacerbated by Russia’s aggression in Ukraine – all of these things and so many more come together here at the United Nations.
And we know, and you know from what you’re doing every single day, that what we’re trying to accomplish for our country, for the American people, can’t effectively be done alone. We need to be working with others. We need to find cooperation; we need to find coordination; we need to do consultations. And again, all of that is happening here.
And as Linda said, it is happening at extraordinary speed, an extraordinary pace. I know that the – sometimes the worst words in the English language is “Washington’s coming to town.” So I know how much has gone into just these couple of days and the extraordinary work that’s been packed into a couple of days, particularly the food security work that we’ve been doing yesterday and again today at the Security Council. And I deeply appreciate all of the effort that’s gone into that.
Getting together with some 30 countries yesterday, also with African ministers, 10 countries, the Security Council meeting today, the migration forum on top of that – all of this made possible, by the way, by the remarkable protocol team, Matthew Miller – are you here, Matthew? (Applause.) Protocol is vital everywhere, but probably no more so than right here, and it’s multiplied by almost 200, so we’re really grateful for that.
So many of you also worked this spring to do what many people thought was impossible, which was, again, to help rally the world in opposition to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and in support of Ukraine. UN resolutions at the General Assembly that got extraordinary support, 140, 141 countries – again, that doesn’t just happen. It’s because of so much of the work that you’re doing, not just in the moment, but it’s also the product of the work you’re doing every day to build relationships, to build confidence, to build trust. So again, I deeply appreciate that.
Let me say, too, that I know that even as we’re intensely focused on Ukraine, as I mentioned, there are so many other things going on that you’re taking on every single day. I have a really hackneyed acronym that my colleagues in Washington are tired of hearing me talk about, but it is, nonetheless, important – ROW, R-O-W, rest of world. Even if something very intense is going on, like Ukraine, we are, we have to be, focused on the rest of the world, and you’re doing that. And for those of you who are working different portfolios that may not be in the spotlight at the moment, thank you for what you’re doing.
As I mentioned before, even as we’ve been dealing with Ukraine, our diplomacy, including diplomacy that’s been centered here at the UN, has helped get a truce, for the time being at least, in Ethiopia. And as result, humanitarian assistance is getting up into Tigray. We helped get a truce in Yemen after eight years, and again, as a result, humanitarian assistance is flowing. We have maybe a chance for a longer-lasting peace. More than 500 million COVID vaccines have gotten through to other countries, free of charge, through COVAX, and – with no strings attached. I could go down a list, but it shows that we are ROW, you are ROW. You are making a difference every single day.
So I’m grateful to the work that you’re doing. I really wanted to just come by and say thank you. I also wanted to say, as Linda said, this the first gathering that you’ve had in this room in a while. That is because, of course, we’ve all been living with COVID-19 for the last two years. And I know the disruptive effect that it’s had not only on the way you’ve had to do your work, but for so many of you in your own personal lives. And some people have been affected directly, and it makes everything that we all do more challenging. And yet, you’ve come through that with tremendous professionalism and tremendous skill.
So to all of you here, I know being in New York you have the great benefit of being in the city, but I also want you to know you’re a crucial part of what we’re doing in Washington. We couldn’t do our diplomacy, we couldn’t do our foreign policy, we couldn’t be as effective as we are being without the work that you’re doing. So simply put, thank you, thank you, thank you. (Applause.)