Rice Outlines New Direction for US Diplomacy

NEW YORK ~ The United States said this week it views the United Nations as essential to tackle global security threats and will exercise responsible leadership to ensure its interests and values converge.

“There is no substitute for the legitimacy the UN can impart or its potential to mobilise the widest possible coalitions,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said on Wednesday in outlining President Barack Obama’s new diplomatic priorities, including a commitment to work constructively with most nations.

The world body is “essential to our efforts to galvanize concerted actions that make Americans safer and more secure and as a vehicle for advancing US policies and universal rights,” she told a packed hall at New York University.

“In the past, some have dismissed poverty, hunger and despair in faraway countries as other people’s problems, preferring to focus on the supposedly ‘hard’ questions of war and power.”

In today’s world, she added “more than ever, America’s interests and values converge. What is good for others is often good for us.”

While US leadership is needed to tackle global challenges like nuclear proliferation, the financial crisis, mass atrocities, climate change and drug trafficking, “it is rarely sufficient,” said Rice, who has cabinet rank.

She urged instead for “the effective cooperation of a broad range of friends and partners.”

Other countries, Rice added, “will likely shoulder a greater share of the global burden if the United States leads by example, acknowledges mistakes, corrects course when necessary, forge strategies in partnership and treats others with respect.”

Noting that in the age of globalization, troubles affecting fragile nations can menace strong ones, she made a call “to grow the ranks of capable, democratic states… that can deliver on both their international responsibilities and their domestic responsibilities to their own people.”

Washington, Rice pledged, would work “with the vast majority of countries on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect to bridge old divides,” dismissing as “outdated” the rifts between North and South.

As the United States pushes for “serious reform” to ensure “greater efficiency and effectiveness” at the United Nations, it is doing its part by committing to pay its dues in full and on time, the US ambassador said.

Last week, Rice said Washington, which pays roughly 26 percent of the UN peacekeeping budget, was now in a position to clear all its peacekeeping arrears for the 2005-2008 period and meet its obligations in full for 2009, a total estimated at around US$2.2 billion.

She also pledged increased US support to the world body’s far-flung peace operations – 15 peacekeeping missions and 27 special political missions involving 78,000 military personnel, more than 11,000 police and over 23,000 civilian staff.

And the United States may go further, with Rice noting Washington was “willing” to swell the ranks of military staff officers, military observers, civilian police and civilian personnel to UN missions.

“We have seen the costs of disengagement. We have paid the price of stiff-arming the UN and spurning our international partners,” the US envoy said.

“The United States will lead in the 21st century – not with hubris, not by hectoring, but through patient diplomacy and a steadfast resolve to strengthen our common security by investing in our common humanity.”

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