November 20, 2019
“We should be very concerned about how the United Nations gives a platform to countries like Cuba, Venezuela, and China to talk about human rights.” – U.S. Senator Todd Young
Click here or the image above to watch Senator Young’s opening statement.
WASHINGTON –U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Multilateral Institutions Subcommittee, today hosted a hearing titled, ‘Challenges and Opportunities For Advancing U.S. Interests in the United Nations System’. The hearing focused on the changing landscape at the United Nations and how we can work with our partners and allies to advance U.S. interests around the globe.
Senator Young recently introduced bipartisan legislation along with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) instructing the Director of National Intelligence to examine China’s activity at the United Nations and other international organizations. Testimony from witnesses at today’s subcommittee hearing underscored the need to pass this legislation.
“As China’s economy continues to grow and it exerts greater influence in the world, it is natural that it would seek more positions of power within the UN system. As it does so, it is incumbent upon the United States and our allies to ensure China supports and defends universal values rather than its own domestic political agenda,” Senator Young said in his opening statement. “Human rights, free speech, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, due process, and access to information are just a few of the values that are essential elements of the UN charter and its goal to maintain international peace and security. We need look no further than Xinjiang or Hong Kong to have serious concerns about China’s lack of respect for fundamental human rights.”
Witnesses at today’s hearing included Ambassador Kip Tom, U.S. Representative to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture; Mr. Jonathan Moore, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs in the U.S. Department of State; Mr. Scott Busby, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in the U.S. Department of State; Mr. Brett Schaefer, Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs of the Heritage Foundation; Mr. Peter Yeo, President of the Better World Campaign; and Ms. Amy Lehr, Director of the Human Rights Initiative of the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
Click here for the full video of today’s hearing.
Senator Young’s opening statement as prepared for delivery:
As we look at the news today and see the range of conflicts around the world, one thing is clear: these conflicts are increasingly complex and have impacts that extend beyond their region.
Iran continues to extend its tentacles throughout the Middle East, sowing instability and conflict wherever it goes.
Russia no longer even attempts to hide its aspirations to influence foreign elections around the globe, including here in the United States.
China’s unfair trading policies and practices affects every one of its trading partners.
The common thread with each of these challenges is that they will be more easily resolved if we work together with international partners and allies.
Our role in multilateral organizations is one that continues to be debated among government officials, think tanks, and academics.
While this debate is important, we cannot lose sight of the changing landscape at the United Nations and other multilateral organizations where the United States and our allies are at risk of ceding moral and policy ground to those who do not share our conviction for standards and norms.
Today, Chinese nationals are at the helm of four UN agencies.
Americans are only at the head of three.
One of the key issues we hope to explore in today’s hearing is the implications for senior Communist party members leading the United Nations in these agencies: the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Telecommunication Union, the International Civil Aviation Administration, and the Industrial Development Organization.
What types of policies will these Communist Party members implement? Who will they bring in to join the ranks of the UN staff? Will they represent the interests of the United Nations and its members, or those of the Communist Party of China? And how should we advance our interests, which we believe to be universal, given this backdrop?
President Trump has repeatedly said that other countries need to step up and do more to shoulder the weight of addressing the major crises around the world.
As China’s economy continues to grow and it exerts greater influence in the world, it is natural that it would seek more positions of power within the UN system.
As it does so, it is incumbent upon the United States and our allies to ensure China supports and defends universal values rather than its own domestic political agenda.
Human rights, free speech, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, due process, and access to information are just a few of the values that are essential elements of the UN charter and its goal to maintain international peace and security.
We need look no further than Xinjiang or Hong Kong to have serious concerns about China’s lack of respect for fundamental human rights.
We should be very concerned about how the United Nations gives a platform to countries like Cuba, Venezuela, and China to talk about human rights.
The UN itself publishes reports citing these and other members of the Human Rights Council as countries that retaliate against their own citizens for defending human rights.
We should be similarly concerned about Russia’s role at the United Nations and its willingness to exercise its veto power to protect Assad, Maduro, and other autocratic leaders.
Spending time on the Council has not “reformed” these bad actors but rather given them a larger mouthpiece to share their misguided view of what is considered a human right.
There is no issue more controversial and divisive in the UN context than Israel.
Each year the UN takes up a disproportionate number of unbalanced resolutions that assign blame to Israel for perpetuating unrest in the Middle East.
These resolutions do not include references to Hamas, a known terror organization.
Further, fellow UN member countries have resisted U.S. efforts to draw attention to Hamas’ activities in any form.
We look forward to our witnesses statements on this complex issue and examining how the United Nations can play a more productive role in mediating and resolving conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Finally, I feel it is necessary to again note why this subcommittee and this hearing are important.
The United States remains the largest donor to the United Nations – paying 22 percent of the regular budget, and 25 percent for peacekeeping operations.
In 2017, the United States was assessed $3.5 billion by the UN and volunteered an additional $7 billion in funds. Given these enormous sums of funds, it is essential that we as members of Congress keep a watchful eye on how these funds are being used and ensure they are going toward issues that reflect our values and priorities.
We will hear from witnesses on two distinguished panels of experts who can answer many of these questions.
I look forward to their testimony and having a lively discussion as we engage on these topics.
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