- As Delivered –

WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the top Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following statement at a committee hearing on advancing American interests in the United Nations; United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power is testifying the committee today:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing and Ambassador Power: welcome. Thank you for your testimony today, and more importantly, for your distinguished service. As far as I am concerned, you’re certainly the right person at the right time to be our UN Ambassador, and we’re lucky to have you.

“Across seven decades, the United Nations has done a great deal of good. Millions saved from starvation, diseases like smallpox wiped off the map, sanctions that have ended conflict and curbed terrorism, peacekeeping missions that have brought stability to war-torn regions.

“At the same time however, we must acknowledge that the UN is far from perfect. We need to improve the organization’s management, enhance transparency, and strengthen internal oversight. And we must continue to speak out forcefully when member states use the UN as a platform to unfairly single out Israel.

“In my mind, the best way to address these problems and to advance American foreign policy priorities is to maintain our engagement with the organization.

“U.S. leadership at the UN has headed off deeply biased and one-sided resolutions targeting Israel. We cast the lone “no” vote against the Commission of Inquiry into the situation in Gaza. We’ve helped scale back the number of anti-Israel efforts in the Human Rights Council overall, and the Human Rights Council has really been a joke, as far as I’m concerned. We pushed back against the resolution recognizing Palestinian statehood. And we’ve rejected efforts by the Palestinians to use the UN to gain concessions from Israel outside of the context of negotiations

“I want to thank you, Madam Ambassador, because you’ve been such a champion for Israel. The Israeli Ambassador to the UN said last week that if it weren’t for the help of the United States and you personally, Israel ‘would be in real trouble.’ When the United Nations continues to attack Israel, it really undermines the credibility of the United Nations.

“I’m confident that you will continue to make clear, Madam Ambassador, that the United States will continue to oppose any biased or one-sided resolutions at the UN and that we will not shy away from using our veto at the Security Council if necessary, despite some of the rhetoric we’ve heard from President Obama.

“But even with strong American involvement, the UN has been virtually paralyzed when it comes to a range of challenges around the world because other members of the Security Council continue to block meaningful action. I’d like to mention just a few, and I’m eager to hear your views on these topics.

“I’ll start with the civil war in Syria. Half the population of that country has been displaced. An entire generation is growing up in refugee camps. To be sure, the UN has done a lot for refugee families in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. And most of the assistance for Syrian people inside Syria has flowed through the UN. But Russia’s intransigence has prevented the UN from playing a more active role in helping the Syrian people chart a better future for their country.

“And that’s only the tip of the iceberg with Russia. Under Vladimir Putin’s leadership, or lack of leadership, Russia has walked away from democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. Their ongoing intervention in Ukraine threatens stability and democracy across Europe. This war has left thousands dead, tens of thousands wounded, and more than a million displaced. We need to expose the Kremlin’s lies wherever and whenever we can. So I commend you for shining a light on the hard facts in the UN.

“With regard to Iran, we are all eager to see what a comprehensive nuclear deal will look like. I’m particularly concerned about who will determine if Iran is in violation of the agreement. What happens if we think Iran has stepped over the line, but Russia and China disagree?

“I’m also concerned about how and when UN sanctions against Iran will be lifted. The UN is going to have a big role to play, and I’m eager to hear your views about how this process will move forward.

“Finally, in our own neighborhood, I am very pleased that the mandate for the UN International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala was recently renewed. Creating similar commissions in Honduras and El Salvador would make a big difference in fighting corruption and impunity, and I hope we can work together urging our partners to take this step.

“Ambassador Power, thank you again for appearing today. I look forward to your testimony.”


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