A conversation with Ambassador Nikki Haley was released by the Council on Foreign Relations, where she discussed the U.S. plans for its term as President of the UN Security Council. Haley serves as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and is a former governor of South Carolina.
In the Middle East, there are a number of conflicts, which greatly impact how the U.S. will move forward during its Security Council Presidency.
“For me, human rights are at the heart of the mission of the United Nations. That’s why I’ll be devoting a portion of my presidency to putting the issue of human rights on the agenda – on the agenda at the Security Council,” said Haley, as she outlined the need to change the culture of the United Nations, which she noted has become stagnant.
“It might surprise many Americans to learn that human rights violations have not been considered an appropriate subject for discussion in the Security Council. This is the rule the club has created. The Security Council has never had a session focused exclusively on human rights. There have been meetings focused on singular situations in particular countries, but never has a meeting been dedicated to the broader question of how human rights abuses can lead to a breakdown in national peace and security. The thinking is that peace and security are the Security Council’s business; human rights are left separate, to others,” said Haley.
“So many people are desperate. So many face injustice, genocide, starvation, and corruption. And they feel powerless. So many people yearn just to be heard,” said Haley. “Then there was Neda. She was 26 years old, talking on her cellphone, when she was shot by government forces in Iran in 2009. A video of her bleeding to death on the street in Tehran went viral. Once again, the people reacted. In the end, Neda’s death—and the dreams of the Iranian people—were overlooked and unfulfilled.”
Haley intends to challenge member-states to “walking the walk and not just talking the talk” regarding human rights. “The United States is the moral conscience of the world. We will not walk away from this role, but we will insist that our participation in the U.N. honor and reflect this role. If we can’t speak on behalf of people like Mohamed and Neda, then we have no business being here,” said Haley.
She noted that change needs to happen, because in some cases those abuses are funding aggression, such as in the case of North Korea. In other cases, these abuses are being used a weapon of war. For example, Syrian intelligence uses torture, including the deliberate systemic torture of children, to identify and silence opponents, as well as Syrian pro-government forces have targeted the civilian infrastructure, including hospitals.
“Together with Russia and Iran, the Assad regime has destroyed each and every hospital in east Aleppo – everyone. A quarter-million people have been left to suffer. These are war crimes,” said Haley. “And Assad’s crimes, of course, have not been confined to Syria. Syrian human rights violations have led to the greatest refugee crisis since World War II. What was once a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters is now a six-sided conflict and a great-power proxy war.”
When she was questioned further on Syria, she pointed out that the role of Iran and Russia have contributed to the crisis. “And as long as Russia and Iran are involved as they are, we’re going to continue to have problems.”
“I do hope that the international community realizes let’s not get egos in here, let’s not be about power-hungry. Let’s really look at the fact that if we don’t have a stable Syria, we don’t have a stable region. And it’s only going to get worse. It really is an international threat right now, and we’ve got to find a solution to it,” said Haley. Other areas in the region may also be part of the agenda, as the Trump administration attempts to view everything with a fresh perspective.