December 5, 2022

America’s Leadership at the United Nations in President Biden’s First Year

President Joe Biden greets India Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Global Summit on Supply Chain Resilience Sunday, October 21, 2021, at La Nuvola Convention Center in Rome. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
President Joe Biden greets India Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Global Summit on Supply Chain Resilience Sunday, October 21, 2021, at La Nuvola Convention Center in Rome. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

By United States Mission to the United Nations, Office of Press and Public Diplomacy

Over the past year, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, under the leadership of Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has worked tirelessly to rebuild global relationships and restore America’s leadership at the United Nations. From combating COVID-19 and climate change, to advancing human rights and racial justice, to pushing back on bad actors and authoritarian regimes, USUN has helped to implement President Biden’s foreign policy agenda and make Americans more safe, prosperous, and secure.

USUN has championed America’s values on the world stage, fought back against anti-Semitic and anti-Israel bias at the UN, and countered efforts by Russia and China to expand their influence in the UN system. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s diplomacy was crucial in the U.S.-led effort to reach a ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians last May, and to ensuring that lifesaving humanitarian aid continued to flow to millions of refugees and internally displaced civilians in Syria. She has also strengthened the United States’ position within the UN system – effectively advancing U.S. candidates for crucial leadership positions, engaging in every forum where the United States has an interest, and delivering on badly-needed reforms.

In the past year, USUN has:

Brought U.S. Leadership to the Global Fight Against COVID-19

  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield joined President Biden and UN Secretary-General Guterres at the U.S.-led landmark COVID-19 Summit on the margins of UNGA High Level Week. This historic event brought together the global community to elevate the urgency of combating the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure more robust global pandemic preparedness.
  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield helped advance President Biden’s historic commitment to ending the pandemic and donating vaccines around the globe. In visits to Thailand, Mali, and Niger, she highlighted the delivery of vaccines and visited clinics to observe U.S.-donated vaccines being administered.
  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield also convened a high-level dialogue focused on building consensus, momentum, and political will to improve pandemic preparedness and global health security. Joining Vice President Kamala Harris and the Prime Minister of Norway, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield brought together the UN Secretary-General, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Co-Chairs of the Independent Panel on Preparedness and Response, and other notable private sector, NGO, and international leaders to focus attention on creating a more nimble and sustainable pandemic preparedness architecture.
  • As host country for the UN, USUN worked to keep our diplomatic community safe by ensuring the UN adopted COVID-safe protocols, and coordinated with the City of New York to provide testing vans at the UN during UNGA High Level Week and make vaccines readily available to UN diplomats and staff.

Brought Humanitarian Issues to the Forefront

  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield worked to expand the focus on crises in Ethiopia and Burma, and on the human rights situation in North Korea in the UN Security Council.
  • USUN led an event alongside human rights organizations and 18 other nations to bring a spotlight to the China’s genocide against Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
  • USUN raised awareness and rallied the UN system and international donors to launch three Humanitarian Response Plans for Northern Central America as part of our effort to respond to the humanitarian emergency in the region.
  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield convened a UN Security Council meeting in March focused on conflict-driven hunger, highlighting the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

Secured Humanitarian Access to Syria & Supported Refugees Across the Globe

  • Last June, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield traveled to the Turkey-Syria border as part of a successful effort to secure the renewal of cross-border aid to millions of vulnerable Syrians in dire need. USUN diplomats succeeded in brokering a deal with Russia and others that kept humanitarian aid and vaccines flowing to millions of vulnerable civilians.
  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield worked to showcase both the needs of refugees around the global and the value they bring to their communities during official travel to Jordan, Turkey, Ecuador, and Thailand. She also highlighted the Administration’s effort to resettle Afghan allies in the United States and visited with U.S. and international organizations who are supporting refugee and migrant populations.
  • As head of delegation to the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield not only celebrated the accomplishments of Team USA, but met with members of the historic UN Refugee Olympic Team.

Reasserted United States Leadership on Climate Change

  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield has helped restore U.S. leadership on climate at the UN and helped rally countries around the world to raise their ambition during this decisive decade of action to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach. She joined the President at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate, where she moderated a discussion on the global security challenges posed by climate and security.
  • USUN has reaffirmed the President’s commitments to reduce emissions by 50-52 percent below 2005 levels in 2030, to reach a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035, and to achieve a net-zero economy by no later than 2050; to end new international finance for unabated fossil fuel energy by the end of 2022; as well as to provide $3 billion in adaptation finance by 2024 to help those most vulnerable to climate change adapt to and manage the impacts of climate change.
  • USUN helped lead a high-profile push for a UN Security Council resolution on climate and security that became the second-most co-sponsored UN resolution in history.
  • The United States joined the UN Group of Friends on Climate and Security, further highlighting the Administration’s return to the Paris Agreement and re-engagement on climate change at the UN.

Advanced Racial Justice and Equity at Home and Abroad

  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield delivered powerful remarks in the UN General Assembly on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that drew upon her own personal experience with racial discrimination and highlighted the Administration’s deep commitment to advancing racial justice in the U.S. and around the globe.
  • USUN strongly supported a UN General Assembly resolution creating a Permanent Forum for People of African Descent and successfully supported American professor and activist Justin Hansford’s election to the Permanent Forum’s inaugural panel of independent experts.
  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield has placed emphasis on outreach and engagement with the African-American community. Over the past year, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield has headlined the National Action Network’s 30th Annual Conference, the 10th Anniversary of the Black Women’s Roundtable, and the State Department’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Summit.

Championed U.S. Candidates for Key UN Positions

  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and USUN were proud to support the successful appointment of Ambassador Cathy Russell as Executive Director of UNICEF.
  • In 2021, USUN worked closely with the U.S. State Department Bureau of International Organizations and U.S. Missions in Geneva and Vienna to run seven campaigns for U.S. candidatures in UN elections, winning six races – five of which were competitive. These victories reinforced U.S. multilateral re-engagement and enabled the United States to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council, return U.S. independent experts to serve on the Committee to Eliminate Racial Discrimination and the Committee Against Torture, re-elect our incumbents on the International Narcotics Control Board and the International Civil Service Commission, and elect a U.S. independent expert to serve on the inaugural term of the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent.

Re-engaged as a Champion for Gender and LGBTQI+ Equality

  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield re-engaged as a leader within the UN LGBTI Core Group and visited Stonewall Inn to mark Pride Month.
  • USUN reinvigorated a focus on women’s political participation, sexual health and reproductive rights, and gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence. USUN worked to integrate and elevate these critical issues and draw attention to the unique effects of COVID-19 on women and girls at the UN in the Commission on the Status of Women, the Generation Equality Forum, and in UN Strategic Plans.
  • The United States made history by successfully securing the first-ever consensus adoption of a UN resolution on elections that referenced sexual orientation and gender identity.

Secured Key UN Reforms

  • USUN negotiated a $6.38 billion 2021/2022 UN peacekeeping budget for 11 active missions, a $400 million decrease from the 2020/2021 budget – saving $100 million for the U.S. taxpayer. USUN also reduced the rate of U.S. peacekeeping contributions for the next three years, resulting in a potential total savings of $180 million.
  • USUN also secured consensus from all UN Member States to prioritize peacekeeping financial resources for the protection of civilians, and protected all human rights, conduct and discipline, and oversight functions in support of peacekeeping mandates, in the face of efforts by Russia, China, and others to cut these positions.

Rebuilt American Leadership

  • During the 76th UN General Assembly High Level Week, President Biden laid out an affirmative vision for American leadership at the UN and for reinvigorating the UN’s foundational values.
  • In UN Security Council remarks by Secretary Blinken, the United States challenged the multi-faceted campaign by some Member States to reshape the UN system, including by challenging norms, narratives, budgets, processes, and resolutions that sought to advance a more authoritarian vision of international order.
  • USUN demonstrated leadership across the UN by fighting to maintain human rights mandates, civil society protections, peacekeeping standards, and critical sanctions regimes. The Mission worked to ensure the principles enshrined in the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) remain central to the work of the UN and to check attempts to use UN institutions to advance narrow, nationalist objectives.

Stood Up for Israel at the UN

  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield has used her remarks at monthly UN Security Council sessions on Middle East peace to call out the Council’s disproportionate focus on Israel.
  • During the conflict on the Israeli-Gaza border, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield defended Israel’s security at the UN Security Council and supported intensive diplomacy to achieve a cessation of hostilities.
  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield traveled to Jerusalem and Ramallah in November to demonstrate the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to Israel’s security and cooperation at the UN, and to continue the Administration’s effort to build ties with the Palestinian people.
  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield has consistently prioritized outreach to diaspora organizations in the United States as well as engagement with organizations dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and to elevating public education and remembrance of the Holocaust.

Promoted a Free, Open, Inclusive, and Secure Digital Future

  • USUN advocated for the U.S.-championed framework for responsible state behavior in cyberspace, which was endorsed by consensus in the reports of the Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and the Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG).
  • USUN worked to advance inclusive dialogue and defended a multistakeholder approach for digital and emerging technologies, including in the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on Cybercrime, established to launch negotiations of a potential cybercrime treaty.
  • USUN leadership campaigned on behalf of Doreen Bogdan-Martin, a U.S. citizen, who is running for the position of International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary-General in fall 2022. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield hosted Ms. Bogdan-Martin for a virtual event with New York-based missions in December 2021.

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