Secretary Kerry’s Priorities with Regard to the United Nations

William J. vanden Heuvel (United States as Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office in Europe [Geneva] 1977-1979; Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, 1979-1981)


Secretary Kerry knows as well as anyone the history of the United Nations, its successes and failures, and the possibilities of its serving an effective role in the overall context of our foreign policy.  He will hit the ground running because he is so familiar with the diplomatic community and with the leadership of the United Nations itself.  Some suggestions:

  • In his first major speech to the UN community, Secretary Kerry could remind its members that the control of nuclear weapons is the single most important obligation of the world body, that the Non-Proliferation Treaty is a foundation stone for a safer world and that all nations must be bound to work for agreements and arrangements that will prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  The United States will continue its efforts with the Soviet Union and others to reduce the arsenals of nuclear weapons that exist.
  • We will always operate within the framework of the United Nations with an attitude of respect for others peoples’ views and positions, stressing tolerance and the necessity for nations to live together peaceably even though they may disagree with one another on many issues but they must resolve to contain those disagreements without violence and with respect for the Rule of Law.
  • Secretary Kerry could urge the United Nations to a greater role in resolving the civil war of Syria by providing an effective forum for all the combatants to meet and discuss and bring about the political structure in which all Syrians can live peacefully and resume the course of their daily lives.
  • He should express concern for the children of the world and the responsibility of all of our nations to confront the environmental problems that endanger the world our children will inherit.
  • He should salute the specialized agencies of the United Nations, such as the World Health Organization, which is on the verge of the historic accomplishment of the eradication of polio just as it played a significant role in the eradication of smallpox.
  • He should declare corruption to be one of the principal enemies of progress and development – institutional corruption, individual corruption, governmental corruption – which steals the assets of the world’s people for private greed instead of humane development.
  • The Secretary should invite the world’s representatives to look across the East River to the Four Freedoms Park, a Memorial to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, dedicated on October 17, 2012, which should be a daily reminder that the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights commit themselves to those freedoms:  freedom of Speech and Expression, freedom of Worship, freedom from Want and freedom from Fear.  The United States had a significant role in creating the United Nations, leading the universal effort to build “a better world” after the devastation of World War II.  President Obama and the people of the United States reaffirm that commitment to the Four Freedoms and ask all nations to strive together in common purpose to advance their vision.