What will the next US ambassador to UN do with peacekeeping?

What will the next US ambassador to UN do with peacekeeping?
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Last week, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to nominate Kelly Knight Craft to the country’s top post at the United Nations. Craft is currently the U.S. ambassador to Canada. The committee’s prior hearing focused on Craft’s comment that human behavior is contributing to climate change, as well as the grilling she received for being away from Ottawa so often.

Unfortunately, the hearing failed to touch on any of the fundamental questions about peacekeeping that Craft will confront if she assumes the role of ambassador to the U.N. The Senate must now raise these questions before confirming her appointment.

Announced in February by the president, this key diplomatic post has already been vacant for six months, following Nikki HaleyNikki HaleyGOP primary in NH House race draws national spotlight China's Xi likely to invite Biden to Beijing Olympics: report Nikki Haley calls for cognitive test for older politicians MORE’s departure. Despite vowing to nominate a replacement for Haley quickly after she resigned, the administration took two months to put forward Heather Nauert, the former Fox news host and then-State Department Spokesperson. After a further two months, she abruptly withdrew her candidacy in February. 


Meanwhile, a number of top officials have left the U.S. Mission in recent months and President TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel faces double-edged sword with Alex Jones, Roger Stone Trump goes after Woodward, Costa over China Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE has nominated the Acting U.N. Ambassador Jonathan Cohen to take the helm in Cairo. If the rest of Ambassador Craft’s confirmation goes smoothly, it will be the first real boost to the U.S. Mission for some time.

With deep divisions on the Security Council and increasing tensions threatening in the Gulf, the role of U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is critical to global security and international cooperation, on issues ranging from North Korean non-proliferation to peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the field of international peace and security, there are no higher stakes than those deliberated upon at the Security Council.

This brings up three key questions that were not asked of the nominee:

  1. Will the U.S. cut funding to peacekeeping?

During Ambassador Haley’s tenure, over $1 billion was cut from the peacekeeping budget and the subsequent closure of the peacekeeping mission in Darfur is on track to reduce the budget further. 

Congress, however, is now moving to raise the budget for U.N. peacekeeping contributions. At Craft’s hearing, Committee Chairman, Senator Risch, focused on the supposedly oversized U.S. contribution to the U.N., but asked no questions. Congress should ask, what sort of changes in relation to U.N. peacekeeping budgets would the ambassador expect over the next four years? What are her views of Congressional action to increase funding for U.N. peacekeeping (at a time when the Administration has been calling for greater cuts)?

  1. How will Craft deal with Bolton? 

National security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonWhen will Biden declare America's 'One China, One Taiwan' policy? India's S-400 missile system problem Overnight Defense & National Security — GOP unhappy with Afghan vetting MORE is likely to continue to play a strategic role in the positioning of the U.S. at the U.N. He had previously stated that 10 floors could be removed from the U.N. Secretariat without making a difference. Congress should ask whether Craft agrees with this when it comes to global peace and security, and if not, how she proposes to manage those who disagree with her in Washington. 

  1. Will the U.S. continue to acknowledge climate-security risks?

There has been significant criticism of the Craft’s close familial ties to big coal. The Security Council — including the U.S. — has acknowledged that climate factors in Chad and the Sahel have increased instability and poses major security threats in the region. These security risks could quite quickly ricochet across the region, including areas like Mali where the U.N. has a large peacekeeping operation. How does the ambassador see climate change impacting global peace and security? If she is to recuse herself from meetings concerning coal, how would she direct her representative when such matters relate to implications for global peace and security?

Craft’s support for the U.N. and multilateralism is to be warmly welcomed and was refreshing to hear. The U.S. needs a strong ambassador at the U.N. The political vacuum in that role has left others — such as China — to fill the recent void. Key U.S. ambassadorial posts around the world remain vacant but the administration seems to have recognized that not having a fully empowered envoy in the U.S. seat at the U.N. table does more harm than good to American interests. 

But specific questions about peace and security need to be asked of any candidate for this post. Craft’s position on these is especially important given the many pressures she will face from certain camps in Washington and elsewhere — as Haley’s tenure highlighted, diplomatic juggling across these actors can shape U.S. policy toward the U.N. significantly. In the coming months, there will be ample opportunities for Craft to articulate the U.S. position on major peace and security issues at the U.N. — having clarity now on these critical questions will be equally important.

Adam Day is head of programmes at United Nations University.