George Bush photo

Address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City

September 21, 1992

Thank you, Mr. President, to you, sir, and Mr. Secretary-General and distinguished guests. Forty-seven years ago, I was a young man of 21, and like thousands of others of my generation, I'd gone off to war to help keep freedom alive. But 47 years ago this month, the war was finally over, and I was looking forward to peace and the chance to begin my life in earnest. Nineteen forty-five, it marked a moment of promise, not just for me but for all of mankind. A great struggle against dictatorship had been fought and won. Across the globe we all looked forward to a future free of war, a world where we might raise our children in peace and freedom. And this institution, the United Nations, born amidst the ashes of war, embodied those hopes and dreams like no other.

But the hopes and dreams of 1945 remained unfulfilled. Communist imperialism divided the world in two; our hopes for peace and our dreams of freedom were frozen in the grip of cold war. And instead of finding a common ground, we found ourselves at ground zero. Instead of living on Churchill's "broad, sunlit uplands," millions found that there was, as Arthur Koestler so chillingly wrote, "darkness at noon." And instead of uniting the nations, this body became a forum for distrust and division among nations. And in a cruel irony, the United Nations, created to free the world of conflict, became itself conflict's captive.

I, too, lived through those disputes. I sat where you sit, proudly so, served in this Assembly. I saw in my time the consequences of the cold war's hot words on the higher missions of the United Nations. And now 47 years later, we stand at the end of another war, the cold war, and our hopes and dreams have awakened again.

Driven by its own internal contradictions and banished by the people's undying thirst for freedom, imperial communism has collapsed in its birthplace. Today, Russia has awakened, democratic, independent, and free. The Baltic States are free, and so too are Ukraine and Armenia and Belarus and Kazakhstan and the other independent states, joining the nations of Central and Eastern Europe in freedom.

The fear of nuclear Armageddon between the superpowers has vanished. We are proud to have done our part to ensure that our schoolchildren do not have to practice hiding under their desks for fear of nuclear attack as the generation before them.

I am proud also to salute the courageous leaders with nuclear responsibilities: President Yeltsin, Kravchuk, Nazarbayev, Shushkevich, who join me in ending the superpower standoff that risked nuclear nightmare. This is the first General Assembly to seat you as truly independent and free nations. And to you and the leaders of the other independent states, I say: Welcome home; we are now truly United Nations.

With the cold war's end, I believe we have a unique opportunity to go beyond artificial divisions of a first, second, and third world to forge instead a genuine global community of free and sovereign nations; a community built on respect for principle of peaceful settlements of disputes, fundamental human rights, and the twin pillars of freedom, democracy and free markets.

Already the United Nations, especially the Security Council, has done much to fulfill its original mission and to build this global community. U.N. leadership has been critical in resolving conflicts and brokering peace the entire world over. But securing democracy and securing the peace in the century ahead will be no simple task. Imperial communism may have been vanquished, but that does not end the challenges of our age, challenges that must be overcome if we are finally to end the divisions between East and West, North and South that fuel strife and strain and conflict and war.

As we support the historic growth of democracy around the world, I believe the community of nations and the United Nations face three critical, interrelated challenges as we enter the 21st century:

First, we face the political challenge of keeping today's peace and preventing tomorrow's wars. As we see daily in Bosnia and Somalia and Cambodia, everywhere conflict claims innocent lives. The need for enhanced peacekeeping capabilities has never been greater, the conflicts we must deal with more intractable, the costs of conflict higher.

Second, we face the strategic challenge of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, truly the fastest growing security challenge to international peace and order.

And third, we face the common economic challenge of promoting prosperity for all, of strengthening an open, growth-oriented free market international economic order while safeguarding the environment.

Meeting these challenges will require us to strengthen our collective engagement. It will require us to transform our collective institutions. And above all, it will require that each of us look seriously at our own governments and how we conduct our international affairs. We too must change our institutions and our practices if we are to make a new world of the promise of today, if we're to secure a 21st century peace.

With you today, I would like to discuss these three challenges: peacekeeping, proliferation, and prosperity. And I'd like to use this opportunity to begin to sketch how I believe the international community can work together to meet these three challenges and how the United States is changing its institutions and policies to catalyze this effort.

Let me begin with peacekeeping. The United Nations has a long and distinguished history of peacekeeping and humanitarian relief. From Cyprus and Lebanon to Cambodia and Croatia, the blue beret has become a symbol of hope amid all that hostility, and the U.N. has long played a central role in preventing conflicts from turning into wars. Strengthened peacekeeping capabilities can help buttress these diplomatic efforts.

But as much as the United Nations has done, it can do much more. Peacekeepers are stretched to the limit while demands for their services increase by the day. The need for monitoring and preventive peacekeeping, putting people on the ground before the fighting starts, may become especially critical in volatile regions. This is especially the case because of the rapid and turbulent change that continues to shake Eastern Europe and Eurasia.

Across the lands that once were imprisoned behind an Iron Curtain, peoples are reasserting their historical identities that were frozen in communism's catacomb. Where this is taking place in a democratic manner with tolerance and civility and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms, this new democratic nationalism is all to the good. But unfortunately, we need only look to the bloody battles raging in places such as the former Yugoslavia to see the dangers of ethnic violence. This is the greatest threat to the democratic peace we hope to build with Eastern Europe, with Russia and Eurasia, even more so than economic deprivation.

We fully support the efforts of NATO and CSCE and WEU, the C.I.S. and other competent regional organizations to develop peacekeeping capabilities. We are convinced that enhanced U.N. capabilities, however, are a necessary complement to these regional efforts, not just in Europe and Eurasia but across the globe.

I welcome the Secretary-General's call for a new agenda to strengthen the United Nations' ability to prevent, contain, and resolve conflict across the globe. And today, I call upon all members to join me in taking bold steps to advance that agenda. I, therefore, will be discussing with my colleagues the merits of a special meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the Secretary-General's proposals and to develop concrete responses in five key areas:

One, robust peacekeeping requires men and equipment that only member states can provide. Nations should develop and train military units for possible peacekeeping operations and humanitarian relief. And these forces must be available on short notice at the request of the Security Council and with the approval, of course, of the governments providing them.

Two, if multinational units are to work together, they must train together. Many nations, for example, Fiji, Norway, Canada, and Finland, have a long history of peacekeeping. And we can all tap into that experience as we train for expanded operations. Effective multinational action will also require coordinated command-and-control and interoperability of both equipment and communications. Multinational planning, training, field exercises will be needed. These efforts should link up with regional organizations.

Three, we also need to provide adequate logistical support for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. Member states should designate stockpiles of resources necessary to meet humanitarian emergencies including famines, floods, civil disturbances. This will save valuable time in a crisis.

Four, we will need to develop planning, crisis management, and intelligence capabilities for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

And five, we must ensure adequate, equitable financing for U.N. and associated peacekeeping efforts.

As I said, we must change our national institutions if we are to change our international relations. So let me assure you: The United States is ready to do its part to strengthen world peace by strengthening international peacekeeping.

For decades, the American military has served as a stabilizing presence around the globe. I want to draw on our extensive experience in winning wars and keeping the peace to support U.N. peacekeeping. I have directed the United States Secretary of Defense to place a new emphasis on peacekeeping. Because of peacekeeping's growing importance as a mission for the United States military, we will emphasize training of combat, engineering, and logistical units for the full range of peacekeeping and humanitarian activities.

We will work with the United Nations to best employ our considerable lift, logistics, communications, and intelligence capabilities to support peacekeeping operations. We will offer our capabilities for joint simulations and peacekeeping exercises to strengthen our ability to undertake joint peacekeeping operations. There is room for all countries, large and small, and I hope all will play a part.

Member states, as always, must retain the final decision on the use of their troops, of course. But we must develop our ability to coordinate peacekeeping efforts so that we can mobilize quickly when a threat to peace arises or when people in need look to the world for help.

I have further directed the establishment of a permanent peacekeeping curriculum in U.S. military schools. Training plainly is key. The United States is prepared to make available our bases and facilities for multinational training and field exercises. One such base nearby with facilities is Fort Dix. America used these bases to win the cold war, and today, with that war over, they can help build a lasting peace.

The United States is willing to provide our military expertise to the United Nations to help the U.N. strengthen its planning and operations for peacekeeping. We will also broaden American support for monitoring, verification, reconnaissance, and other requirements of U.N. peacekeeping or humanitarian assistance operations.

And finally, the United States will review how we fund peacekeeping and explore new ways to ensure adequate American financial support for U.N. peacekeeping and U.N. humanitarian activities. I do believe that we must think differently about how we ensure and pay for our security in this new era.

While the end of the cold war may have ended, the superpower nuclear arms competition, regional competition, weapons of mass destruction continue. Over 20 countries have or are developing nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons and the means to deliver them. At a time when the United States and its former adversaries are engaged in deep historic cuts in our nuclear arsenals, our children and grandchildren will never forgive us if we allow new and unstable nuclear standoffs to develop around the world.

We believe the Security Council should become a key forum for nonproliferation enforcement. The Security Council should make clear its intention to stem proliferation and sanction proliferators. Reaffirming assurances made at the time the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was negotiated, I proposed that the Security Council reassure the non-nuclear states that it will seek immediate action to provide assistance in accordance with the charter to any non-nuclear weapons state party to the NPT that is a victim of an act of aggression or an object of threat of aggression involving nuclear weapons.

I also call for the indefinite renewal of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty when it is reviewed in 1995. I believe we must explore ways that we can strengthen linkages between these suppliers' clubs, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Australia Group, and the Missile Technology Control Regime, and specialized U.N. agencies. Here, I would like to note UNSCOM's productive efforts to dismantle the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction program and the International Atomic Energy Agency's continuing good work.

But as the U.N. organizations adapt to stop proliferation, so, too, must every member state change its structures to advance our nonproliferation goals. In that spirit, I want to announce my intention today to work with the United States Congress to redirect the United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, known to some of you as ACDA, to refocus its talents on providing technical support for nonproliferation, weapons monitoring and destruction, and global defense conversion. Under the direction of the Secretary of State, ACDA should be used not only in completing the traditional arms control agenda, but, just as importantly, in providing technical assistance on our new security agenda.

Even as we work to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, we must be realistic and guard ourselves against proliferation that has already taken place. Therefore, we're working toward a cooperative system for defense against limited ballistic missile attacks. And we fully intend to have other nations participate in this global protection system.

While expanded peacekeeping capabilities and improved nonproliferation efforts will be critical for building an enduring peace, shared economic growth is the long-term foundation for a brighter future well into the next century. That's why I stated yesterday, during a moment of international uncertainty, that the United States would be strongly engaged with its global partners in building a global economic, financial, and trading structure for this new era. At the same time I urge that our global responsibilities lead us to examine ways to strengthen the G - 7 coordination process. I affirmed America's support for European integration that opens markets and enhances Europe's capability to be our partner in the great challenges that we face in this new era.

While the exact form of integration is, of course, for Europeans to determine, we will stand by them. Economic growth is not a zero-sum process. All of us will benefit from the expanded trade and investment that comes from a vibrant, growing world economy.

To ensure that the benefits of this growth are sustained and shared by all, fair and open competition should be the fuel for the global economic engine. That's why the United States wants to complete the Uruguay round of the GATT negotiations as soon as possible and to create a network of free trade agreements beginning with the North American free trade agreement. At the same time we need to recognize that we have a shared responsibility to foster and support the free market reforms necessary to build growing economies and vibrant democracies in the developing world and in the new democratic states. This should be done by promoting the private sector to build these new economies, not by fostering dependency with traditional government-to-government foreign aid.

Since World War II, foreign assistance often served as a weapon in the cold war. Obviously, we will still use critical foreign assistance funds to meet legitimate security needs. As our humanitarian operations in Somalia and northern Iraq, Bosnia, and the former Soviet Union will testify, we will continue our robust humanitarian assistance efforts to help those suffering from manmade and natural disasters.

But foreign aid as we've known it needs to be transformed. The notion of the handout to less developed countries needs to give way to cooperation in mutually productive economic relationships. We know that the more a nation relies on the private sector and free markets, the higher its rate of growth; the more open to trade, the higher its rate of growth; and the better a country's investment climate, the higher its rate of growth.

To move from aid, what I would call aid dependency, to economic partnership, we propose to alter fundamentally the focus of U.S. assistance programs to building strong, independent economies that can become contributors to a healthy, growing global economy. Now, that means that our new emphasis should be on building economic partnerships among our private sectors that will promote prosperity at home and abroad also.

Working with our Congress, I will propose a top-to-bottom overhaul of our institutions that plan and administer foreign assistance, drastically reducing the bureaucracy that has built up around Government-based programs; streamlining our delivery systems; and strengthening support for private sector development and economic reform. The Agency for International Development, AID, another institution born during the cold war, needs to be fundamentally and radically overhauled. Promoting economic security, opportunity, and competitiveness will become a primary mission of the State Department.

Our assistance efforts should not be charity. On the contrary, they should promote mutual prosperity. Therefore, using existing foreign affairs resources, I will propose creating a $1 billion growth fund. The fund will provide grants and credits to support U.S. businesses in providing expertise, goods, and services desperately needed in countries undertaking economic restructuring.

I will also support significantly increasing the programs of the Export-Import Bank to ensure that U.S. products and technology promote investment in worldwide economic growth. The United States will work with its global partners, especially the G - 7 nations, to enhance global growth at this key point in world history as we end one era and begin another. None of us can afford insular policies. Each of us must contribute through greater coordinated action to build a stronger world economy.

Ladies and gentlemen, I realize that what I've outlined today is an ambitious agenda. But we live in remarkable times, times when empires collapse, ideologies dissolve, and walls crumble, times when change can come so fast that we sometimes forget how far and how fast we've progressed in achieving our hopes for a global community of democratic nations.

In the face of today's changes, with the loss of so much that was familiar and predictable, there is now a great temptation for people everywhere to turn inward and to build walls around themselves: walls against trade, walls against people, walls against ideas and investment, walls against anything at all that appears new and different. As the Berlin Wall fell, these walls, too, must fall. They must fall because we cannot separate our fate from that of others. Our peace is so interconnected, our security so intertwined, our prosperity so interdependent that to turn inward and retreat from the world is to invite disaster and defeat.

At the threshold of a new century we can truly say a more peaceful, more secure, more prospering future beckons to us. And for the sake of our children and our grandchildren, and for the sake of those who perished during the cold war, and for the sake of every man, woman, and child who kept freedom's flame alive even during the darkest noon, let us pledge ourselves to make that future real. And let us pledge ourselves to fulfill the promise of a truly United Nations.

Thank you, and may God bless you all. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:02 a.m. in the General Assembly Hall at the United Nations.

George Bush, Address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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