TALKING IT OVER
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
As we prepare to enter a new century, we are faced with this grim
reality: The 20th century has been the bloodiest in history. And as we enter
the 21st, sinister forces still operate to tear us apart.
Rather than celebrating our common humanity, some leaders, greedy for
power, exploit ethnic, racial and religious conflicts for their own
aggrandizement. Women, enjoying newfound freedom in many countries, watch as
their sisters in Afghanistan are held virtual prisoners in their own homes. And
terrorist fanatics, lacking restraint and armed with deadly weapons of mass
destruction, threaten the safety of each and every one of us.
For all the progress we've witnessed in our own lifetimes, especially
in medicine and technology, 1.3 billion of the world's citizens still live on
less than a dollar a day. Millions have no access to safe water. A schoolchild
in South Asia is 700 times less likely to use the Internet than an American
child. And 40 million still die of hunger every year.
In this country, we have the luxury of preparing for the challenges of
the new century at a time of unparalleled economic strength, a time when our
economy is the engine of global growth. Our power in the world community is
unrivaled, and as we strive to eradicate disease and poverty, prevent the
killing and dislocation of innocents, and control the spread of weapons of mass
destruction, other nations look to us for leadership.
Just as we cannot and should not act as the world's policemen,
inserting ourselves into every conflict around the world, paying the costs and
assuming the risks, so must we not shrink from our responsibilities. It is time
to face one of those responsibilities right now. It is time to pay what we owe
to the United Nations.
The United Nations, which we were instrumental in creating after World
War II, is a place where nations seek to resolve differences with words instead
of weapons. What too many in Congress apparently fail to comprehend is that
paying our U.N. debt is not only a legal and moral obligation, it is an
opportunity. For the United Nations offers one of the chief venues for
mobilizing the support of other nations behind key goals important to our own
national security interests -- from keeping the world on a stable path to
democracy, to peacekeeping, immunizing children, caring for refugees, and
combating the spread of deadly weapons.
Since its creation in 1945, the United Nations has negotiated 172
peaceful settlements and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan. In
addition, it has helped to bring about an end to the Iran-Iraq war and the
civil war in El Salvador. U.N. peacekeepers have helped to uphold cease-fires,
conduct free and fair elections, monitor troop withdrawals, deter violence,
create free countries, and contribute to political stability.
In two areas of particular interest to our own national security --
controlling terrorism and minimizing the spread of weapons of mass destruction
-- the United Nations has assumed a leadership role. In October, the United
Nations passed a resolution sanctioning the Taliban in Afghanistan until they
turn over terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, whose operatives bombed our
embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania, killing hundreds of innocent American and
African citizens. The United Nations has delivered for trial the suspects in
the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing. And nine years ago, the United Nations ordered
the sanctions on Iraq, denying Saddam Hussein the resources to rebuild his
military and make and maintain vast quantities of weapons.
On other fronts, a 13-year effort by the World Health Organization, a
U.N. agency, has succeeded in eradicating smallpox, helped to wipe out polio
from the Western Hemisphere, boosted immunizations from 5 percent to 80 percent
in developing countries, and provided famine relief to millions. In 1997, 22
million refugees received food, shelter, medical aid, education and
repatriation assistance from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. The
United Nations leads efforts to protect the ozone layer, curb global warming,
limit deforestation, and provide safe drinking water to 1.3 billion people in
rural areas. And U.N. programs have helped to promote education and the
advancement of women, raising literacy rates in developing countries.
Failure to pay what we owe not only threatens and impedes these vital
programs, it erodes our authority and may also lead, at the end of this year,
to the ignominious and embarrassing loss of our voting privileges in the
General Assembly. In addition, it impedes our ability to press other countries
on much-needed organizational reforms, or gain their support on other critical
Although the United States is the largest contributor to the United
Nations, it is also the largest debtor, owing more than $1 billion in arrears.
It is time for Congress to pay the bill. Our security and status in the world,
as well as the security and status of our children and grandchildren, depend on
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