About the Author: Dr. Esther Brimmer serves as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs.
The high-level portion of the annual United Nations General Assembly is now winding down, giving us an opportunity to reflect on the concrete benefits of multilateral cooperation for the American people as well as for the citizens of the other nations of the world.
To take just one example, on the issue of international terrorism: Yesterday, I had the honor of joining Secretary Clinton as she addressed a United Nations Security Council session devoted to our shared efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism worldwide. As the Secretary said, countering terrorism is not a task that any country can achieve on its own. It is a global challenge that requires a global response, and we are far more likely to succeed in stopping terror if the nations of the world work in concert.
In her remarks, the Secretary called for a comprehensive approach to countering terrorism: from intelligence officers capable of identifying threats, to law enforcement officers capable of stopping them, to justice systems that can fairly and effectively prosecute the perpetrators. Every country suffering under the threat of terrorism needs such capacities, and we must work to help other countries develop them, just as those countries need to exercise the will to use them.
As part of this comprehensive approach, the Secretary pointed out that in order to stop terrorism, we also have to stop people from becoming terrorists in the first place. As she said, “Al Qaeda and other groups offer a false narrative of destruction that appeals to people whose lives are characterized by frustration or desperation. We must provide an alternative narrative of hope and possibility -- one that is matched by policies that create new opportunities for people to build a better future for themselves and partake in broader global progress.”
That alternative narrative requires an assertive U.S. voice on the international stage, and the Administration's effort to engage deeply and broadly in the multilateral arena should be noted. A couple of important examples from last week's dizzying number of meetings and events in New York help to tell the story. Last Wednesday, the United States launched an innovative new development strategy, outlined by President Obama during the Millennium Development Summit, which will give hope and help to the frustrated and desperate people among whom terrorists sometimes find a susceptible audience. On Friday, I had the opportunity to participate in a meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations, which yesterday's Security Council session repeatedly cited as providing a new and innovative approach to building bridges of cultural understanding around the world that can help counter the deceitful and hate-filled rhetoric of violent extremists.
Those examples are just one portion of the U.S. effort to marshal the entirety of the United Nations system in support of our shared goals. Today, I am in Montreal participating in the 37th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). ICAO is the UN agency that deals with international air transport, including promoting airline security, facilitating border crossing procedures at airports, and promoting machine readable passport standardization -- each of which factors into keeping Americans and other citizens of the world safe from would-be terrorists. The Assembly is an opportunity for countries to discuss and improve airline safety, security, and environmental standards. While in Montreal, our delegation -- led by Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano and Transportation Secretary LaHood -- will be working with other member states on a Declaration on Aviation Security. We will use this Declaration to establish a foundation that strengthens global aviation security measures, so that we can all fly to international destinations safely and with relative ease.
So what do we gain from all these meetings and declarations? The answer is clear: when we address crucial transnational issues such as counterterrorism, development, climate change, human rights, and more, we do so most effectively and most enduringly as a member of the international community. The U.S. voice is an important one, our efforts and priorities are watched closely, and, in rededicating ourselves to leading a coherent, effective international system, we make that system both more vibrant and more effective.