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Stephen Schlesinger

Stephen Schlesinger

Posted April 27, 2009 | 03:36 PM (EST)

In First 100 Days, Obama Plants Flag at United Nations


President Obama has dramatically re-established American relations with the UN in his first 100 days. His acclaimed multilateral outlook on international relations, his willingness to listen to foreign leaders rather than lecture them, his admission of "mistakes" by the US on issues like torture, the economy, the Iraq war, and other global matters, and his general popularity around the world, have created an entirely new atmosphere in the United Nations building.

By the seventh week of his administration, he held his first meeting with Secretary General Ban Ki Moon at the White House, a cordial and highly supportive event. Then, with several specific steps, Obama made crystal clear his re-engagement with the world body: first, he approved the US joining the newly created Human Rights Council rather than staying outside of it to reorient the body toward enforcing the essential civil rights for citizens in all states; second, he asked Congress to appropriate $836 million to pay up our peacekeeping obligations which we have shamefully refused to pay in the past; third, he made a new commitment to helping with stopping climate change -- a key issue at the UN these days; fourth, he reversed by executive order the Bush policy of denying US funds to family planning programs at the UN's Population Fund; fifth, he renewed and expanded funding to both UNICEF and UNESCO, organizations long neglected by the US in the past; sixth, he publicly endorsed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, among other crucial UN treaties, and pledged to participate vigorously in the UN's upcoming 2010 review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the latter of which the Bushites especially disparaged; seventh, he publicly embraced the Millennium Development goals which the Bush Administration viewed with decided ambivalence.

Obama, however, did duck out of the Durban conference on racism and he has so far not said much about the International Criminal Court and has not been heavily pro-active on the Darfur crisis, as of yet. But overall he deserves an A- grade for his first 100 days as regards the UN.