In her last news conference to wrap up a four-year tenure as the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power defended her record of diplomacy before a world body that she called “flawed,” but said its existence and function are critical to the interests of her country.
“The United States needs the UN,” Power said Friday in a wide-ranging news conference that touched on some of her tenure’s toughest battles — from the civil war in Syria, which she inherited, to the civil strife in South Sudan and most recently, votes in the Security Council condemning Israeli settlements.
Power, speaking to a room full of international journalists, said the United Nations is a flawed system, in which less than half of its members are democracies, but that the core work of the UN — peacebuilding, humanitarian action and the maintenance of security — would have to be done in its absence anyway.
“We would build some version of what we have,” she said, advocating for a “stronger” UN. “The world is always going to find itself turning to the UN.”
Her comments seemed both advice to the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump and to tout the success of the implementation of President Barack Obama’s agenda at the UN, the hallmark of which is the kind of multilateral action that defines the 71-year-old institution.
Trump said in at least one tweet last month that the UN is a place where very little gets done, calling it “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.”
Republican lawmakers have voiced strong criticism of the UN — and the Obama administration – in recent weeks since the United States, a staunch ally of Israel at the UN, abstained from voting on a UN Security Council resolution last month that condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
This month, Israel said it would cut $6 million of its annual dues to the United Nations in protest. Some federal lawmakers have threatened the same. The move could have considerable impact on the UN, which relies on the United States for 22 percent of its budget.
Power cautioned against such a maneuver because other countries, citing veto-holding Russia and China, could step in and wield greater influence over the UN and sideline the United States in international affairs.
“We lead the world, in part, by leading at the UN,” she said.
Power also defended the United States’decision not to react militarily in Syria when chemical weapons were launched during the conflict, saying the alliance with Russia subsequently rid Syria of its declared stockpile of chemical weapons.
Power said she will leave her post at noon on Friday, Jan. 20.