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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

U.S. Reengagement with the U.N.

FPC Briefing
James B. Warlick
Acting Assistant Secretary for International Organizations
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
March 20, 2009


 2:00 P.M. E.D.T.

Audio

MODERATOR: (In progress.) -- Secretary for International Organization James Warlick is here with us today, and this is an on the record roundtable. He’ll open up with a few remarks and then, have at it.

MR. WARLICK: Hi, everybody. Thank you so much for showing up on a Friday afternoon. You know, a few months ago, I did a similar roundtable in New Delhi, and we had a fabulous turnout of journalists, but I think it was because they served beer and –(laughter) – hors d’oeuvres to all the journalists. And so this is my first time to the Foreign Press Center. And I think at least on Friday afternoons, you should insist that they offer beverages at the briefings.

MODERATOR: Oh, good. Go on representing (inaudible.) (Laughter.)

MR. WARLICK: Well, I wanted to make a few general comments about the UN and multilateral diplomacy, because I really do think the United States is in a new era of engagement. I think that there is increasing recognition, certainly in this Administration, but, you know, with other countries too that if we’re going to accomplish our foreign policy objectives, our highest foreign policy goals and objectives, it’s not going to be just acting alone or just bilaterally. In fact, we’re going to have to find ways to work constructively with other countries multilaterally, and that means, a lot of times, through the United Nations.

You know, there are issues that are clearly multilateral that we cannot resolve bilaterally. That could be climate change, it could be health issues in Africa, counterterrorists, those are obvious transnational issues. But if you look at the kinds of things that we’re doing around the world and what we’re looking to accomplish, say, for example, in Sudan where we would – we are committed to protecting innocent civilians in Darfur, but that would be a huge decision to actually send American troops to protect those civilians. It would be a big decision for Europeans to send troops to protect those civilians.

So what – how do we do that? Well, the way we’re doing that now is, in fact, working multilaterally. It’s, you know, working, in this case, though the United Nations, through UNAMID, the UN African Union Peacekeeping force, which is now in the process of deploying to Darfur to protect. That’s just an example. But if you look at other issues around the world, it could be Iran, where – well, bilateral sanctions, while important, are not the answer to addressing the issues of highest concern with Iran. In fact, we know we’d have to work with other countries. So in this case, it’s not just the UN, but it’s the new coalition, it’s the P-5+1 or, you know, Korea, which is very creative, how we’ve dealt with North Korea. While the UN is one dimension of it, the Six-Party Talks are another.

So in fact, what we’re doing – the way that – the way I think you’ll see diplomacy conducted in this Administration and with other governments is trying to build these new coalitions, trying to work constructively through the UN and other multilateral forums to figure out how we can, working together, address some of these huge challenges around the world.

And I think what you’re seeing with the Obama Administration, first and foremost, there’s a new tone, one of real engagement and of commitment to not only addressing the issues, but figuring out how we’re going to work with other countries on this. I think you can see a number of people – I mean, well, beginning with the President, but our new Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice and Secretary Clinton herself, who are really committed to, you know, working on the full range of issues with the UN.

We’re very fortunate with the Secretary to have someone who’s actually worked, you know, on UN issues in the past. She’s worked on women’s issues in the UN context. She’s had a strong longstanding interest of food and health issues. And I think she’ll bring that same interest to this job. Susan Rice has a background in Africa where some of our most difficult multilateral challenges and UN challenges are right now.

So I think we have a real opportunity at the beginning of this Administration too. It’s on the U.S. side, but there’s also a great deal of goodwill on the part of other countries. And I hope that we’ll be able to really and truly take advantage of that, find ways to work together, and I think have a real newfound respect for international multilateral diplomacy and the United Nations.

So those are my general comments. I think I was billed to talk a little bit about human rights and I can do that. Or we can, you know, just open it up to whatever all of you would like to talk about.

MODERATOR: And if I could remind you, when you ask your question, if you could please identify yourself and your publication.

QUESTION: Lalit Jha from PTI, Press Trust of India. Could we start with the UN reforms?

MR. WARLICK: Sure.

QUESTION: We haven’t heard anything from the new Administration how it’s going to handle reforms in the UN --

MR. WARLICK: Right.

QUESTION: -- and (inaudible) at the UN and things like (inaudible). What is the new Administration’s position?

MR. WARLICK: Right. Well, the broader question first before we move into the Security Council – and the Security Council is, of course, critically important – but you know, the last administration – and I was a part of that – we spent a great deal of time working on greater transparency and accountability in the UN system. It’s not perfect, but we really came a long way in greater transparency and accountability from the horrible abuses of the Oil-for-Food Program to today. I do think we really created a platform throughout the UN, its agencies, funds and programs, of greater accountability and transparency. And there are areas where we still need work.

I think that provides this Administration for a basis to move on with, you know, more specific reforms. And I think that what this Administration will be looking at is not just greater accountability, but how do you make the UN more effective. And you know, we really haven’t asked that question as directly as we should, given that the United States is providing in the neighborhood of $5 billion across the UN system. I think we ask ourselves: Well, what are we getting for that money and how can that money be better utilized? And that is the starting point for our discussions now.

Now this Administration is too new to have a full list of what we’re going to be doing in terms of UN reform. But you can be assured we’re going to be looking at issues like the UN budget. We’re going to be looking at, you know, personnel issues. We’re going to be looking at outdated structures that really haven’t changed in decades. Look, we’re going to use the UN to address these problems around the world.

As I was saying, you have to have an institution that’s modern and effective. And how do we get from here to there? It’s not easy when you’re dealing with an institution that’s 192 member-states. Well, you come, you know, to look at the many pieces of the UN, and one of the most important parts of the United Nations, or the United States, is the Security Council.

And you know, we – never has the Security Council been busier than it is today. You can look at the agenda of the Security Council and it’s baffling that they can take up as many issues as they do. And you know, each one of them, you know, you’ll see are, you know, headline issues in many of your publications. Well, I think that demonstrates that the U.S. is really and truly committed to the Security Council and to address – using it to address issues of international peace and security. We care about it. And because we care about it so deeply, we’re going to be – we’re going to support Security Council reform that makes – ensures that the Security Council is effective in addressing issues of international peace and security.

We do support Security Council reform. It does need to be modernized. It needs to reflect the realities of the 21st century. We do believe that it needs to expand. Now expand, we mean a modest expansion of the Council. And we need to ensure that it continue, that it is effective. We do not want to have this institution that gets mired in its own internal debates, that is so large that it cannot issue – it cannot address these issues of international peace and security.

We also believe that Security Council reform needs to be done on its own merits. We’re not linking it to other reforms in the UN. We will be pursuing other reforms in the UN, but we have not – we are not going to link that. We will pursue a constructive agenda on Security Council reform. And we will be engaged in participating in the discussions in New York on – you know, if you follow the issue closely, then you know that a decades-long process, what was called the open-ended working group now has taken a different shape in intergovernmental negotiations as a part of the General Assembly.

Now that doesn’t resolve a lot of difficulties in pursuing reform, but it does demonstrate new energy in the Security Council – in the General Assembly to address Security Council issues. And we’re there, we’re engaged, we’re speaking up, we’re working with countries, India included, on what should the future of the Security Council be.

QUESTION: May I follow up?

MR. WARLICK: Yes.

QUESTION: You’ve said about modest expansion. Could you just explain the modest (inaudible) both in the terms of permanent members, non-permanent members and how they --

MR. WARLICK: Well, we haven’t specified that. And really, it’s not – it’s not – it’s counterproductive to – as soon as you’ve set a number – is it 20, is it 25, is it – then the debate changes. It’s not how can the Council be more effective. It’s okay, let’s do the math, okay, if the U.S. has 25, what would those extra countries be? And so it becomes a numbers game, and that’s not what we – not the way that we want to pursue this. And we also don’t want to pursue this by saying, oh, no, we’ll only accept new permanent members or we’ll only accept non-permanent members. We don’t believe that that’s the debate that should be. It’s – the real debate is how should the Security Council reflect the realities of the 21st century and how can it operate more effectively?

QUESTION: And how (inaudible)?

MR. WARLICK: Well, that’s the debate that’s going on in New York now, and it’s interesting to see. It doesn’t divide according to regions. There are a wide range of proposals out there on how to change the Security Council. It’s not easy because – I mean, if there were a silver bullet to this we would have found it already. If there were an easy formula for expanding the Council, we would be there today. In fact, it is very complicated – you know, how a region is represented, which countries is from that region. I mean, it is extraordinarily complicated. And when you’re dealing with 192 countries, many of which would like to sit on the Council – some as permanent, but many, many as non-permanent members – they believe that their interests need to be defended, and that’s what they’re doing. So this is the purpose of these intergovernmental negotiations, to get the ideas out on the table and to begin to see where is the majority of support.

Any Security Council reform, by the way, will have to be by two-thirds of vote of the General Assembly, and that’s a lot. That’s a lot of countries. So this is not just simply, you know, as an up-or-down decision. It’s going to take some work in member-states to be able to coalesce around some specific paths toward Security Council reform.

QUESTION: What is the ideal Security Council for the United States?

MR. WARLICK: The ideal Security Council is one that --

QUESTION: What do you want – the United States (inaudible)?

MR. WARLICK: Look at the main issues of international security around the world that we’re dealing and other countries are dealing with. It’s counterterrorism. It’s peacekeeping. There are countries that are in crisis such as Sudan. There are nonproliferation issues such as in Iran. There are issues of reconstruction and stabilization in countries like Liberia or Burundi. Close to the United States, there’s Haiti. If you go down the list of issues, those are our highest priority policy issues, and so we want a Security Council that will be able to act and act responsibly on those kinds of issues.

We do not need another talk shop. We do not need more bureaucracy. We need to be able to effectively address those issues of peace and security. And that’s why we’re going to be very careful. Security Council reform could be very easy if you increase the numbers so large that you allowed other countries to be represented. Many countries can be represented. But that’s not a responsible decision because we feel that that would undermine the effectiveness of the Council. We really do want it to be able to work on these issues. We want it to be able to make a decision, for example, to send peacekeepers to Darfur. And we do not want it to be a position where it gets itself tied in knots because, well, are there too many countries or disagreements. We want it to be an effective organization.

QUESTION: May I have a follow-up?

MR. WARLICK: Yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) daily paper, Slovenia. What’s the American position on the veto power of – and probably – and maybe possibly the reform of that in the Security Council? And you said that the United States pays something like $5 billion a year, 22 percent, I think, of the budget. But will you stop being, as General Secretary Ban Ki-moon recently said, deadbeats now? (Laughter.)

MR. WARLICK: Oh, man. Okay. On the issue of paying our dues – in fact, you know, we are assessed 22 percent of the UN’s overall budget and 26 percent of the peacekeeping budget – by far, by far, the largest contributor to – financial contributor to the UN system. We’re hardly deadbeats.

This Administration is committed to paying off the arrears that we do have. We’re committed to – you know, we have a treaty obligation to pay our bills at the United Nations, and we have always intended and will pay those bills. We know that the UN depends on our assistance. It couldn’t operate without, you know, the U.S. contribution – financial contribution. So we’ll be working – the Administration will be working very closely with members of Congress to address the – our bills at the UN, and we’ll also be working closely with the Secretary General. So the reason that he came to Washington when he did – he did have the opportunity to meet the President, but before he was even invited to the White House, he had meetings arranged on Capitol Hill. And his message was we really do need to work cooperatively across the board, including on working on financial issues. And we welcome that and we want to work with him closely on that.

As far as the veto goes, you know, we do not support extension of the veto in the Security Council. Now, I don’t know what – there’s a debate going on. In fact, there was a debate in New York in the intergovernmental negotiations this week on veto rights. So we’ll need to see where that leads. But it is, at this point, very difficult to imagine a Security Council reform proposal that would have two-thirds majority support and the support of all P-5 that would include the extension of the veto to new permanent members.

Yes, sir. Which one? Please.

QUESTION: Still on the Council (inaudible) but I just have one specific questions. Would this Administration support a seat for Africa on the permanent – of the UN Security Council permanent seat, considering that it’s about the only continent I’ve heard (inaudible) a specific country?

Secondly, you talk about the U.S. wanting to moving to a multilateral, you know, sort of negotiation with other countries. In Sudan, the African Union and the League of Arab Nations, they had asked for the indictment of the president for the human rights, you know, what (inaudible) and the U.S. did not want that. So at the end of the day, he was indicted. If you’re moving in the region of multilateralism, how do you respond to that because the African Union is supposed to be a regional body and wants to work with the U.S. on peacekeeping, on terrorism, and a lot of other issues?

And my third question is on the Congo. The former president of Nigeria was appointed by the UN as an envoy there. They have the human rights group and individuals who are against him because they say he’s not credible to hold that position. They think he’s (inaudible). You know, what’s your take on that?

MR. WARLICK: Okay, which one first?

QUESTION: Any one. (Laughter.) Security Council.

MR. WARLICK: Security Council. (Inaudible) to having an African seat on the – we have not taken a position whether Africa should have a permanent seat or not. We haven’t taken positions on many things with regard to Security Council reform in this Administration. But look, we know, you know, Africa – is it 54 countries?

QUESTION: Fifty-three.

MR. WARLICK: Fifty-three countries.

QUESTION: Well, no, Egypt is not there, so 54, yes. (Inaudible.)

MR. WARLICK: We keep Egypt is the Africa group at the UN, so we’ll say 54.

QUESTION: But they’re not part of it really. Okay, well.

MR. WARLICK: We’ll say 54.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. WARLICK: Fifty-four countries. Look, 54 countries need to have a voice in the Security Council. There’s no question about that. But the Security Council needs to – needs to be a legitimate voice for all member-states, but certainly for a group of 54 African countries. And you know, the AU has been very vocal that they want permanent seats and non-permanent seats, and have taken a very firm position in insisting on that. Now, at the end of the day, I don’t know where the Africa group will come out, but clearly, they are appealing for greater representation.

Congo – what was the other question? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: On Congo, the former president –

MR. WARLICK: Yeah, on Congo, I don’t want to comment on the former president, because I’m not sure of all the facts and the background in that regard. But in terms of the UN’s involvement in Congo, I know we’ve not fixed the many problems there. But I do believe that the presence of UN peacekeepers in Congo has led to a period, generally, of greater stability and protection of civilians than previously was the case. It’s the UN’s largest peacekeeping mission. Peacekeepers are deployed all over the county, and in particular in the eastern portion, where I think, while there have been many problems even recently, we have seen some measure of stability which I hope will continue.

You know, we’re pleased at the role that President Kabila has played most recently in the relationships that he has with President Kagame in forging a way ahead.

(Phone ringing.)

MR. WARLICK: Should we answer?

MODERATOR: No, I think somebody has a wrong number.

(Phone ringing.)

QUESTION: Mr. President? (Laughter.)

MR. WARLICK: Anyway, there are some huge challenges in the Congo that (inaudible) we will have to have deal with. You know, this is an example of – the Congo is one of many examples where we need to make a long-term, sustained commitment to peace and stability. And that’s why the UN peacekeeping operation MONUC is there. So I –

(Phone ringing.)

QUESTION: Let me just see here. This is brand new. See if I have an overall power --

QUESTION: You’re welcome to listen in.

QUESTION: Yeah, that’s okay. I was just looking for a power button. All right.

MR. WARLICK: Okay. And you have to remind me of your third question.

QUESTION: Yeah –

MR. WARLICK: Well, was that okay for MONUC, or did you want something more on MONUC, on Congo?

QUESTION: No, that’s fine. The third one is on Sudan. You know, the African Union and the Arab League wanted, you know, the (inaudible) to be deferred (inaudible).

MR. WARLICK: Yeah, yeah. You know, the International Criminal Court has extended an arrest warrant for – against President Bashir and others for crimes against humanity. We believe sincerely that justice should be served. There should be no impunity for such crimes. We really hope that Bashir will face justice for these crimes he’s accused of committing.

We believe so strongly in that that we’re not going to support what’s called an Article 16 deferral under the statutes – the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court. That statute allows for a deferral of up to one year on a renewable basis. But we believe that if he, in fact, is charged in those crimes, he should stand before justice and answer for those crimes, and it’s a matter of principle for the United States.

The U.S. isn’t alone in saying that. It’s clear that most members of the Security Council feel exactly the same way and do not support an Article 16 deferral. And we also hope that there will be African countries that want to see justice served in the case of the International Criminal Court.

QUESTION: How do you compare that with allegations that the U.S. (inaudible) the ICC – you know, that (inaudible), and Sudan is not significantly ICC, so it has no tradition (inaudible), you know?

MR. WARLICK: Right. In fact, there was a Security Council Resolution 1593 in the last administration where the United States could have vetoed, but did not. We allowed the issue of Sudan to go forward to the International Criminal Court. So this dates back several years that we are going to allow the International Criminal Court to proceed, to investigate, and then ultimately to prosecute. And this Administration feels the same way, that if in fact there are allegations that warrant an indictment of President Bashir and others, then we would like to see justice served.

This isn’t so much about institutions as it is about justice for crimes against humanity. And that’s what we want to see. We want to see justice served.

QUESTION: Are you reconsidering joining (inaudible) the ICC?

MR. WARLICK: That’s an issue that will be under review in this Administration. There will be a policy process that will address this Administration’s position on the International Criminal Court, so it’s too early to say.

Yes.

QUESTION: Sir, my name is (inaudible). The Obama Administration has been (inaudible) for human rights. Would it be one of the criteria that you support your new member of the Security Council?

MR. WARLICK: Well, we have not established formal criteria, although there’s discussion of that in New York. But we would expect any new member of the Security Council – for that matter, any member of the Security Council, period, to – certainly to respect human rights, but also to, you know, live up to the standards of the international community.

For those countries that aspire to be permanent members of the Security Council, you know, we would hope that they would be, you know, actively involved in the United Nations, including through financial and other contributions, that they would be committed to democratic principles, that they would respect, you know, human rights. We’re not establishing criteria, and we certainly to date have not done so. But we would expect, you know, countries that come on to the Security Council, especially permanent members, to take responsibility in all of those areas.

QUESTION: And would you (inaudible) Pakistan, Afghanistan, border region? One of the complaints of that region – of those (inaudible), they had no regard for human rights and they have influenced many (inaudible) situations that just don’t work, recent (inaudible) operations both on – on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. So in that respect, a lot of people have been displaced; you know, they have to move, they have to leave their homes, children and women have been victims. How are you working with the (inaudible) to address those concerns to (inaudible) people who have been displaced? And what kind of assistance are you providing?

MR. WARLICK: Yeah, I’m not sure that that’s an issue in the UN system as much as it is a bilateral one. And you, I suspect, know far more about this than I do. But certainly, my impression is that we have worked very cooperatively with the Government of Pakistan in the last administration and this Administration on counterterrorism efforts. And both the Government of Pakistan and others including the United States are very sensitive to the issue of, you know, protection of civilians and the rights of individuals. I can’t speak to what, you know, issues are – I’m trying to think if there are any particular issues before the United Nations in that regard, and I honestly can’t think of any that are specific to Pakistan.

QUESTION: (Inaudible), you know --

MR. WARLICK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And this is in terms of fighting and (inaudible) traveling and also a lot of the (inaudible), a lot of people have moved, you know, (inaudible). And also --

MR. WARLICK: In terms of resettlement and displaced persons?

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MR. WARLICK: Uh-huh, that could well be an issue in the UN system, but it’s probably a humanitarian issue rather than, you know, a human rights issue per se. And the UN is very active in trying, to the extent possible, to provide support, you know, for displaced persons whether it’s Pakistan or elsewhere.

QUESTION: And on the same issue, you know --

MR. WARLICK: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- one of the biggest refugee camps is still (inaudible). There are thousands, hundreds of thousands and that’s also, you know – how, you know, Pakistan hasn’t changed if those people (inaudible). Do you have any (inaudible) on that? You know, just (inaudible) considered as one of the sources of latency*.

MR. WARLICK: I see. I see. I see. You know, I don’t have specific information on it. I would think, you know, a camp such as that would be a real abiding interest to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. And they would be working directly with the Government of Pakistan on concerns – the Government of Pakistan’s concerns. But I don’t really have any specific knowledge of that situation, so – yes.

QUESTION: Yes, Hilary Krieger with the Jerusalem Post. Thank you for meeting with us today. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about (inaudible) to that process, the decision that the U.S. made to engage in the review, what came out of it. Even with the revisions now, you know, Israel feels it’s really unacceptable. So I’m wondering what you think of how the U.S. participation went and what you think now of this new document, and what lessons that, you know, provides in terms of the U.S. participation on the Human Rights Council, which, you know, again, Israel is seen as potentially legitimizing that council, but without really having having (inaudible) progress?

MR. WARLICK: Yeah. Well, there’s – unfortunately, the first Durban conference in 2001 turned – was hijacked and did not deal with the issues that it should have dealt with – racism and xenophobia. And as you are aware, a decision was made in the last administration to walk out of (inaudible) because it was hijacked.

And so this Administration gave careful thought to whether we should be there. And, you know, this President – you know, of course he cares deeply about racism. As the first Black American, how could he not? And so we would like to be able to work constructively with other countries on this really important agenda. We haven’t been participating in any discussions, any of the outcome document – the negotiations have been going on for more than a year. But when this Administration came in, it was really and truly committed to taking a fresh look at this.

And so we decided to engage in this respect. The second week of the Administration, we sent a delegation to Geneva, including two very distinguished, you know, public delegates, to see if there – see if other countries would be prepared to work with us, to try to steer a fresh course away from the ideology of Durban I, try to get us on track to a conference that really deals with racism. Well, we faced, you know, a document that has already been under negotiations. It had 250 paragraphs. It grew to over 300 paragraphs in that week. It has – it was riddled with problems. It wasn’t just all of the anti-Israel language, but there was language that infringed on our own Constitution on freedom of speech issues. There were calls for immediate reparations for slavery, and there was other unacceptable language in it.

Well, we engaged in good faith on all of those issues not just in the negotiations themselves, but also bilaterally. In Geneva, we met with more than 30 delegations on a bilateral basis. And I can also tell you that it wasn’t just in Geneva. We went back to capitals at a very senior level with our concerns. You know, look, we knew that in one week of negotiation, we were not going to change this, you know, 250, 300 paragraph document. We knew that it wasn’t going to change overnight. But we wanted to see if there was the political will there to really work with us to prevent this conference from being hijacked. And our conclusion was that there just was not the political will to work with us.

And rather than give legitimacy to a conference that has another agenda – not racism, but another agenda, we decided that we would step back. And you know, we made very clear that we would not continue to participate in the negotiations. But if the negotiations took a new course, if there was a new document that deleted this language, defamation of religion, and anti-Israel – if it constructively dealt with issues of racism, then we would be prepared to come back, or at least to consider coming back. That’s where it’s been.

Now, as with any negotiation, they’re – these documents are under discussion in Geneva and in capitals. The most recent of the twists and turns, the document that was 300 paragraphs, now 150. Well, we need to take a really close look at it. But you know, if it continues to address these same problems – you know, we made clear that we will come back, you know, only when we are confident that Durban is going to address the Israel issue of racism.

So that’s where we stand. We’re watching negotiations carefully. We have these new texts. We’ll review them carefully and seriously. We’re not – you know, we’re not taking this lightly because, you know, we actually believe in what this conference should be about. So we’ll stay tuned. The conference comes up in April.

QUESTION: So it isn’t enough – the revision process that’s gone on so far?

MR. WARLICK: Well, it’s certainly no decision for us to, you know, rejoin the negotiating process on the basis of this document. That said, I mean, it’s a document that is under negotiations and that we need to review. It’s in the hands of, you know, our lawyers and policy experts that are taking a much more careful look at it than I have. But there’s no decision today that we are going to be, you know, entering the negotiations on the outcome document again.

QUESTION: And just on the Human Rights Council?

MR. WARLICK: The Human Rights Council – well, in this case, you know – first, to back up, we have serious concerns about the Human Rights Council. It is – you know, it’s had such a focus on Israel. Yes, the real – the real human rights violators around the world, whether it’s, you know, Burma or North Korea or Sudan or Cuba, have barely, you know, been addressed in the Council. And that concerns us deeply. How can you have an effective Council that can adopt – is it 20 resolutions on Israel, but can’t even get around to discussing the situation in North Korea?

So we believe that there needs to be in the UN system a body that, you know, addresses and deals with human rights violations and violators. And we’d like it to be the Human Rights Council. So this Administration has taken the decision that we will engage fully as an observer on the Human Rights Council. We’re sitting behind our nameplate. We’re fully participating in the discussions. We are co-sponsoring resolutions. We’re speaking up to defend Israel or to criticize foreign – well, human rights violations as we see them. So short of actually raising our hand to vote, we’re very active in the discussion. It started on March 2nd and it goes for three weeks.

So that’s where we are. But I think our real commitment in the Human Rights Council needs to be to working on how it can become more – we’re back to the effectiveness argument. How it can become effective for addressing human rights violations? And it does need to be reformed.

QUESTION: And it doesn't (inaudible) without there being – by being present, and yet still continue to bring up (inaudible)?

MR. WARLICK: We need – well, what need to do is we need to speak out. I think our voice counts in the Human Rights Council. So you know, we have spoken up in defense of countries. We have spoken up to criticize. And so in terms of legitimacy, we don’t want to see the Human Rights Council, you know, legitimizing unfair criticism. That’s where our voice, I think, counts. And that’s why we will speak up and have our voice heard.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) human rights violators?

MR. WARLICK: That’s still under consideration. But we will need to make a decision, you know, whether to stand for election for the Human Rights Council. This year, the elections are coming up in May, or next year, or who knows – not at all. That’s a decision that will be taken at a very high level.

QUESTION: Do you feel (inaudible)?

MR. WARLICK: Okay.

QUESTION: You know, from your experience (inaudible) U.S. diplomats have shown that U.S. is better off last eight years (inaudible), has the U.S. (inaudible) the high moral grounds on human rights? And are there countries that are listening to you more attentively since they think (inaudible) of this new Administration?

MR. WARLICK: Well, that’s a little bit of a loaded and unfair question for the last administration, because as a part of the last administration, I have always believed that, you know, we are champions of human rights. The fact that there may have been some abuses does not – does not change the position of the U.S. Government as actually the world’s leader in, you know, guaranteeing the protection of human rights. So we’re fully, absolutely, you know, committed to that as a nation. And you know, you all live here. I mean, if you go out and talk to people, they’re appalled by human rights abuses wherever they happen. And I think, you know, all Americans believe that we really do stand as an example to the world.

So I think your question was a little bit – a little bit unfair. But in this Administration, clearly we have a group of people that --

QUESTION: How does the torture fit into it?

MR. WARLICK: Well, this Administration, you can see, came out very clearly --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) about the new one, but previous ones (inaudible).

MR. WARLICK: Well, they took a different – they took a different position on some aspects of this. That shouldn’t lessen their commitment --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. WARLICK: That shouldn’t lessen their commitment to human rights. The last administration, you know, was very conscious of 9/11 and the war against terror, but no less committed to the protection of human rights. I’m not here to defend the last administration’s record, but you know, I can speak to this Administration’s new commitment. You can see from the President on down, you know, disavowing previous positions on torture.

And I do hope the international community will look to the United States as an example and model to follow in this regard. I mean, these are huge challenges too, and I – there is a debate this week in the Human Rights Council. Actually, there’s a resolution on torture that the U.S. is co-sponsoring. So it’s pretty remarkable, actually, that this Administration has made such a decision. These are difficult issues. We’re going to have to talk through, you know, a lot of them, but it shouldn’t minimize the U.S. Government – U.S.’s commitment to human rights, either the last administration or this one really.

MODERATOR: How about one more?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) And anything from this side of the table?

MR. WARLICK: Oh, are people sitting on this side? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) My name is (inaudible). I’m from Swedish newspaper (inaudible).

MR. WARLICK: Okay.

QUESTION: Given the bad state of the economy in this country, the economy on the brink of depression, isn’t there a risk that the Administration has to focus too much on that that they will leave the (inaudible) issue aside?

MR. WARLICK: Even there – of course, there is a risk. But you know, from all I see, it minimized that risk. You know, I know in New York there have been concerns – well, is U.S. assistance going to fall? But look what we’re seeing. This Administration is committed to the Millennium Development Goals – full stop, no little asterisk, no fine print below. And that means making a commitment to development, including poverty eradication. And so yeah, we do have a financial crisis underway, and actually, that’s an issue for the United Nations. But we can’t let that stand in the way of our commitment to the MDGs and all aspects of that.

When I first met with the Secretary of State, she made very clear to me three of her priorities at the United Nations: food security, health, and climate. And the first two of those are clearly, you know, development goals. And we can’t lose track that the world is looking to the United States and others to be leaders in this regard. I think we will find – I’m certain that we will be.

QUESTION: One last question?

MR. WARLICK: I’ll leave it to Keith to decide.

MODERATOR: Yes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: The U.S. has been trying its best to use a plan for UN nation to put to democratic reforms in Burma, but it hasn’t succeeded so far. Can you give a sense why it hasn’t, and what will be the new Administration’s policy with respect to Burma? Will it continue to use UN (inaudible) or to (inaudible)?

MR. WARLICK: Right. It’s very clear we – and I mean the international community – has not been successful in Burma. We still see a repressive regime. We still see political prisoners. Aung San Suu Kyi herself remains under house arrest. You know, add to that too the physical devastation of the country from Cyclone Nargis that happened. So you know, it is an issue of concern in the Security Council, where Burma is on the agenda; humanitarian concerns, an issue with ASEAN. I think we’re all committed to bringing about change in Burma, but then the question is how. How can we influence this – you know, what is a repressive military regime that has, you know, persecuted its own people? How can we effectively deal with this? And it’s a hard question; it has been and will be.

This Administration is taking a fresh look at Burma. It’s not yet concluded any particular path, but it’s recognized as an area of real abiding concern for us.

MODERATOR: All right. We’ll end there. I want to say, first of all, the distinguished looking gentleman in the red tie back there is Mark Schlachter, who is the head of press for the Bureau of International Organizations, someone you should know.

Mr. Assistant Secretary, thank you so much.

MR. WARLICK: Thank you. Thanks for coming out.

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