Center for American Progress

Statement by John D. Podesta and Richard C. Leone on U.S. Leadership at UN
Press Statement

Statement by John D. Podesta and Richard C. Leone on U.S. Leadership at UN

By John D. Podesta, CEO of the Center for American Progress and Richard C. Leone, President of the Century Foundation

Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Mark Malloch Brown yesterday delivered remarkably candid remarks before a conference sponsored by our two organizations in which he called for greater U.S. leadership in strengthening the United Nations — leadership which is clearly lacking.  We sponsored this conference, called “Power and Superpower: Global Leadership for the 21st Century,” specifically to discuss U.S. leadership in the world, including U.S. participation in the multilateral institutions that the United States was instrumental in creating.   

Mr. Malloch Brown’s comments revealed an understandable frustration with the current lack of U.S. support for the world’s premier international organization.  Indeed he began his remarks asking that his message be understood as “a sincere and constructive critique of U.S. policy towards the U.N. by a friend and admirer.”  Then he went on to say that a “moment of truth” was coming: “Even as the world’s challenges are growing, the U.N.’s ability to respond is being weakened without U.S. leadership.” 

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John R. Bolton reacted to the speech by calling it “the worst mistake by a senior U.N. official that I have seen.”  In typical fashion, Bolton responded with a threat: “To have the Deputy Secretary General criticize the United States in such a manner can only do harm to the United Nations.”

We urge all observers of the United Nations to read the full text of Mark Malloch Brown’s speech, which is available at our conference website, at  Thoughtful and objective readers will agree that Mr. Malloch Brown’s remarks do not merit the bomb-throwing invective typical of our nation’s current “diplomat” to the United Nations; indeed, John Bolton sadly proves Mr. Malloch Brown’s point.

The unfortunate truth is that there has been an absence of constructive leadership by this administration in supporting and guiding the premier multilateral institution — an institution the United States helped create in order to achieve greater international peace and security. 

By doing such things as holding the United Nations hostage by withholding U.S. dues, by not participating in the recently created U.N. Human Rights Council, and by generally undermining multilateral processes, the policies of this administration weaken rather than strengthen an institution that can help achieve U.S. national security goals.