Each September brings the formal opening of a new UN General Assembly, an annual diplomatic spectacle featuring Presidents, Prime Ministers, and the associated pomp, circumstance, and traffic gridlock.
For the United States, each new UN General Assembly offers a useful opportunity to highlight not just our priorities in the multilateral world, but also the crucial importance of American leadership in that world. That leadership has its grounding in the earliest days of the UN, and is framed in a more recent context by President Obama’s deeply held belief that "...the interests of nations and peoples are shared."
During this session of the General Assembly, the United States will pursue its national interests in three overarching objectives that provide ample space to identify shared interests. Those objectives are:
- fostering a more peaceful world;
- promoting sustainable development and human rights; and
- working towards a more effective, accountable UN system.
Within these broad objectives reside a host of important issues that demand attention at the Assembly and across the UN system. Those issues include the pressing security challenges of today, such as the situation in Syria. They include crucial challenges that pay no heed to national borders, such as climate change, pandemic disease, and hunger. They include the shared aspirations of the world’s people as captured in the Millennium Development Goals. And they include threats to universal human rights.
The United States was instrumental in the establishment of the United Nations, and remains its largest and most influential supporter. That remains true in spite of the institution’s weakness and failings, such as the continuing need for improved transparency and accountability. In fact, those failings only remind us that our leadership is vital to efforts to reform UN bodies to improve effectiveness.
We do ourselves no favors by dismissing the United Nations as antiquated or ineffective, or threatening its decapitation. In the final analysis, our continued, robust leadership at the UN not only safeguards many of our core interests, it also promotes the living vision of an international gathering place sustained for the benefit of all nations and people.
Join Acting Assistant Secretary Pittman for a Google+ Hangout on Wednesday, September 18 at 1:00 p.m. (EDT ) to discuss the relationship between the United States and the UN and why youth, in particular, should care about multilateralism. John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project; Mark Leon Goldberg, a reporter for UN Dispatch; and Tiffany Taylor, the U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations will also participate in the Hangout. Post your questions on Google+ and Twitter using #UNMatters.