Mark Malloch Brown, United Nations Deputy Secretary General, gave a strong statement recently decrying the United States lack of support for the United Nations. In a speech to a conference sponsored by the Center for American Progress and the Century Foundation on June 6, Brown made a very "un-UN" speech, in his words.
Brown noted that despite the critical role that the UN is playing around the world in peacekeeping, humanitarian aid, promoting human rights, and supporting economic development, the message in Washington is that the UN is a bloated, corrupt bureaucracy. He notes that:
Americans complain about the UN’s bureaucracy, weak decision-making, the lack of accountable modern management structures and the political divisions of the General Assembly here in New York. And my response is, “guilty on all counts.”
In significant part because the U.S. has not stuck with its project—its professed wish to have a strong, effective United Nations—in a systematic way. Secretary Albright and others here today have played extraordinary leadership roles in U.S.-UN relations, for which I salute them. But in the eyes of the rest of the world, U.S. commitment tends to ebb much more than it flows. And in recent years, the enormously divisive issue of Iraq and the big stick of financial withholding have come to define an unhappy marriage.
He outlined a broad agenda for how the UN was going to be increasingly necessary in the world if we are ever to effectively respond to conflict, environmental challenges and economic disparities. But the world body needs the US as a key partner to get the job done. He called for American politicians to be willing to stand up for the UN:
When you talk better national education scores, you don’t start with “I support the Department of Education.” Similarly for the UN it starts with politicians who will assert the US is going to engage with the world to tackle climate change, poverty, immigration and terrorism. Stand up for that agenda consistently and allow the UN to ride on its coat-tails as a vital means of getting it done. It also means a sustained—inside the tent diplomacy at the UN. No more take it or leave it, red-line demands thrown in without debate and engagement.
He concludes with the question, who will be this generation’s Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt? The implied answer is, certainly not this current Administration.
Bold words, but also honest and courageous ones from Mr. Brown.