In the coming months, we face a crossroads on an array of priorities within our foreign policy agenda, from maintaining tough sanctions on Iran; to enabling continued troop withdrawals in Afghanistan; to securing emerging democracies like Libya; to empowering women and girls in developing nations; to finally eradicating Polio from this earth. These are just a few examples of what the U.S. can do to remain a leader in the global community, and what will be incumbent on the next president to carry forward.
But, again, we cannot do it alone. Each of these works has been a hallmark of our partnership with the United Nations. For example, troop withdrawal in Afghanistan would be impractical and improbable were it not for the UN Assistance Mission facilitating the removal of more than 40,000 heavy and light weapons, clearing 43 percent of known hazardous landmines areas, disbanding 312 illegal armed groups, and confiscating 5,700 weapons.
Similarly, U.S. efforts to free Libya from civil warfare and a ruler who once threatened to “purify” the country “house to house” would have been unsustainable without assistance from the UN. The UN Support Mission in Libya aided interim governing authorities as they built the foundations of a modern, democratic state. It helped draft electoral law, form a commission to administer the election, establish a security plan to prevent politically motivated violence, and facilitate voter registration. After a half century of tyranny, nearly 2.8 million Libyans registered to vote this past July, and more than 3,700 candidates, including 600 women, ran for seats in the new assembly.
Now is the time for both candidates to address this critical relationship and commit to maintaining it, and Americans agree. A recent 2012 poll from the Better World Campaign finds that more than eight in 10 American voters say it is important for the U.S. to maintain an active role in the UN, and nearly two thirds favor the U.S. paying its dues to the UN on time and in full, including majorities of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats. In a contentious election season, that’s more than we can say for many recent approval ratings, and it’s strong recognition among voters of how important it is that the U.S. not have to go it alone in an increasingly complex world.
Continued U.S. engagement at the UN will ensure our role as a leader in efforts to build a safer, healthier and more just world for our children and our grandchildren. That’s simply good public policy and something that both candidates should reaffirm. Just as good candidates need good running mates to make their work shine, so too does the United States need its long-time partner, the United Nations.
Yeo is vice president of public policy at the United Nations Foundation