Remarks by Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Before the UN Security Council Open Debate on New Threats to Security

Thank you, Mr. President.  Let me start by thanking you for bringing us together to discuss these new challenges to peace and security. Many thanks also to Executive Director Fedotov, High Commissioner Guterres, and Director General Chan for their briefings today.

I also welcome the ministers from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil and Columbia to our discussions today. Mr. President, The threats we are discussing today—illicit trafficking, climate change and pandemics — know no boundaries and cannot be tackled by one country alone. They require collective action, which the Council encourages by placing these items on its agenda and taking stock of UN programs aimed at addressing them.

I would like to comment briefly on each. First, illicit trafficking of drugs and arms, and particularly trafficking in persons, is devastating—destroying lives, fueling conflict, and preying on the powerless.

The criminals involved operate in increasingly complex and diversified underground markets and networks without respect for borders, laws or basic human dignity. These networks subvert legitimate economic activities, undermine sustainable development and political stability, fuel violence and corruption, and weaken the rule of law.  In some areas, these criminals are aiding and abetting terrorists, undermining effective development and governance.

We must continue to work together to deny these criminals every advantage and defeat them at every turn. We must continue to set and update international standards; pool our resources and expertise; and close safe havens.

We are already on the right track. The United Nations provides critical assistance to states for implementation of the three UN drug control conventions that form the backbone of our common approach.  In 2009, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, ECOSOC, and the UN General Assembly adopted a counterdrug action plan.  International organizations, such as UNODC, are essential in the fight against transnational organized crime and drug trafficking. Member states can rely on the 2001 UN Program of Action to Prevent, Combat, and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in, Small Weapons and Light Weapons… sorry, Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects and the International Tracing Instrument to deal with the issue of small arms and light weapons. The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, together with the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, the primary international framework, are essential to countering trafficking in persons.

The United States continues to do its part. In 2010, we contributed $34 million US to support UNODC’s programs for treaty implementation support. In the past year, we have announced three initiatives to combat transnational threats: the Central American Citizen’s Security Partnership, the West Africa Cooperative Security Initiative, and the Central Asian Counternarcotics Initiative. We are committed to working with UNODC and other nations to deny safe havens to transnational crime and provide an environment where laws can be enforced, rights are protected, and sustainable development and business can proceed.

Turning to climate change, this Council held a debate last July and heard member states’ deep concerns that climate change will be a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing challenges and vulnerabilities. Climate change has the potential to reduce the availability of food and water, threaten biodiversity, raise sea levels, and disrupt weather patterns, exposing all of us to greater risk. Many regions of the world will be vulnerable to more intense and longer droughts, putting lives and livelihoods in peril. This is a particular concern where poverty or conflict already strains the capacity of communities to cope. Small and low-lying island states have real concerns about erosion and land loss due to sea level rise.

As our understanding of the effects of climate change on security evolves, including the risk of displacement and migration, we recognize the need for more collaborative analysis and action, and we believe the Council should remain open to continuing to consider this issue. The United States reaffirms the important role of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in facilitating an urgent response by all countries to address the challenge of climate change. We are committed to working with all countries to achieve a balanced and comprehensive outcome at the Framework Convention negotiations in Durban next month.

Finally, our interconnections are especially evident in global health. New infectious disease threats such as SARS and H5N1 avian influenza have emerged.  Nearly eradicated diseases such as polio have returned. Infectious diseases pay no heed to international borders. A threat that emerges in one country can quickly spread across the globe, and can only be addressed through collective action.

The international community’s response to the H5N1 outbreak, including sharing of information, expertise, medicines, and vaccines, was unprecedented and led to significantly improved animal-health surveillance and response capacities around the world. We all faced the challenge squarely, in both capitals and international fora. Now, we must maintain momentum to ensure those systems are regularized not only to keep the H5N1 virus in check, but also to protect us from the next emerging pandemic threat.

The United States actively supports several WHO initiatives which build on these lessons learned, including the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework and the 2005 International Health Regulations. We recently concluded a Memorandum of Understanding with the WHO to strengthen collaboration in global health security, and we continue to work with partner countries to improve their own public health surveillance, preparedness, and capacities for responses.

Mr. President, transnational threats are relevant to the Council’s core responsibilities. The Council of the 21st century needs to continue to work to anticipate potential threats and be part of broader efforts to intensify collaboration across the system.

We look forward to working with fellow Council members to find ways to be better informed, including by opening dialogue with institutions that don’t deal with conventional security threats, such as the World Health Organization, but which are on the front line in facing these new dangers. It is also important to be open to greater engagement with other parts of the UN system and to encourage UN agencies to work more closely together to anticipate and manage unconventional threats.

Finally, these issues remind us of the importance of a more traditional priority for us — the need to build state capacity. For example, post-conflict countries already struggling to rebuild infrastructure, strengthen institutions, and consolidate peace are especially vulnerable to some of the stresses posed by transnational threats. Climate change will demand stronger and more resilient institutional capacities for development as well as disaster prevention and response. Emerging infectious diseases require strengthened public health systems. Village clinics will often be the first to observe emergent disease and need to be able to respond swiftly and in cooperation with wider international capacities to manage infectious disease. Trafficking networks thrive where state institutions are fragile and interdiction capacities limited.

Mr. President, new challenges to security will be an important part of our Council’s work in the future. Today’s debate has been a step in the right direction and we thank Portugal for its initiative.

Thank you.