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America and the United Nations

Obamas Speech to the U.N. General Assembly

President Obama is giving his first address to the United Nations on Wednesday, September 23, 2009. He will no doubt receive a standing ovation from the assembled delegates because, according to the Obama administration, it is the U.S. that must reform, not the United Nations. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice has pledged to dramatically revamp Americas role at the U.N. by setting a tone of decency and mutual respect rather than condescension and contempt.

Putting action to her words, the Obama administration has set forth to soften and overturn policies that caused heartburn at the U.N. including:

  • Running for and winning a seat on the dysfunctional U.N. Human Rights Council, which includes oppressive governments like China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia as members in good standing.
  • Rescinding the Mexico City policy which prohibited U.S. funding of abortions abroad and also contributing American taxpayer money towards the U.N. Population Fund, which performs abortions.
  • Supporting references to the International Criminal Court in U.N. resolutions even though the ICC just announced that it could prosecute Americans for actions in Afghanistan.
  • Supporting United Nations action on climate change that could cost the U.S. billions of dollars in lost income.

Collectively, these policy changes constitute a sharp left turn for U.S. policy on the international stage.

Needed U.N. Reform

Instead of ignoring the many problems of the U.N., the Congress and the Administration should be emphasizing the need to fix them. The U.S. is the biggest contributor to the U.N. and gives the organization and related bodies more than $5 billion each year. As stewards of American tax dollars, Administration officials and Congressional leaders should be leading the effort to make sure that U.S. contributions are not wasted or misused.

They should also not be ashamed to advocate and fight for U.S. interests. After all, the 191 other member nations fight ruthlessly for their own interests. A majority of the nations at the U.N. are neither economically nor politically free. Countries like China, Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, and other repressive regimes wield great influence and often entice other member nations to take positions hostile to U.S. policies.

The United States does and should hold itself to a higher standard, and it should not let human-rights abusers and authoritarian regimes set the agenda. Conceding leadership of the U.N. to these nations through accommodation is no way to protect U.S. interests.


The United States must see the U.N. for the political organization that it is, understand the organizations strengths and weaknesses, be willing to fight for Americas policies and interests, and continue to take the lead in addressing the many problems plaguing the U.N. system. The recommendations in Heritages new book ConUNdrum: The Limits of the United Nations and the Search for Alternatives can tell this administration how to do just that. Click here to order a copy of this comprehensive analysis of the United Nations!


Check out Heritage’s latest paper on Obama’s welfare spending!

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