It is a great pleasure to join you at the City Club once again. Last year, I spoke to you about MacArthur’s work in Chicago, especially our partnership with LISC in the New Communities Program. Our effort to revitalize challenged neighborhoods, releasing their promise and potential, continues – despite new obstacles arising from the subprime and foreclosure crisis.

MacArthur keeps faith in the future of this City, its diverse and remarkable people, and its capacity for reinvention and renewal. Over the past year, we increased our annual support for arts and culture in Chicago by 15 percent, started a fund to help Chicago neighborhoods benefit from the City's Olympic bid, and sponsored a new program to connect our Chicago grantees with groups in other countries.

MacArthur, like Chicago, is both deeply American and vigorously engaged with the rest of the world. We have grantees in 60 countries. Almost half of our $300 million in philanthropy is devoted to our programs abroad, where we focus on human rights and international justice, conservation, population and reproductive health, global migration and mobility, and reducing the dangers from weapons of mass destruction. We have offices in Russia, Nigeria, India, Mexico, and soon China. So we are deeply aware of America’s impact on the world; how the U.S. is perceived abroad; and what people in other nations admire, and hope for, in how America relates to the international community.

Throughout American history, three voices have contested to define our international policy. One voice says, “We will not engage with the world.” Another says, “We will engage with the world but only on our own terms.” And a third voice says, “We can and must engage in the world – and we should do so in partnership with others.”

That voice created the institutions, built the alliances, and forged the partnerships that saw us through the Cold War. Dean Acheson called it being “Present at the Creation” – nurturing a coalition of free states and standing firm against oppression, while hoping not to blow the whole world up. Through conflicts – many cold, some hot – we succeeded.

Remember, this outcome was not inevitable. Twenty years ago, conventional wisdom said that the East-West divide and the Soviet threat would remain the defining struggle of our lives. But twenty years ago, I witnessed first-hand the conventional wisdom being uprooted and communism upended. As a Board member of Human Rights Watch in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, I was privileged to be in Prague’s Wenceslas Square as the Velvet Revolution began, on the bitterly cold streets of Bucharest when the people overwhelmed Ceausescu’s forces, in the Parliament in Vilnius when the Soviets tried, in vain, to snuff out the Baltic rebellion that began the unraveling of the Soviet Union.

As I have returned to these sites of struggle, I have been uplifted by scenes that, in their very ordinariness, give us grounds for hope: walking through a bustling Vilnius with former President Landsbergeris by the site where sandbag barricades once protected him from Soviet troops, a conference in Moscow bringing together hundreds of human rights groups in free discussion, the streets of Warsaw and Budapest indistinguishable from those of Western capitals. These are the fruits of American engagement.

The lessons we learned from the Cold War were powerful: be true to our convictions, have faith in the rule of law and international treaties, nurture partnerships and institutions that broaden the coalition for a more just and peaceful world.

How well have we learned these lessons? For many Americans, after the Cold War, school was out. We had one dramatic moment – the Gulf War of 1991 – but overall we believed that major conflicts had ended, replaced by a global pursuit of wealth. For over a decade, we did not even bother to name this new period – so we just called it “the post-Cold War era.” And we had no name for our policy, so we called it “globalization”, forgetting that globalization is a condition, not a policy.

Our “holiday from history” overlooked a great deal – the emergence of new states; the economic rise of Asian nations; campaigns of violence, including genocide; and the continuing struggle against poverty, disease, and deprivation in the developing world. And America’s refusal to endorse the Kyoto Protocol, the Anti-landmine Treaty, or the International Criminal Court added to a perception that the U.S. was no longer prepared to act co-operatively in with the international community.

Then came 9/11. The U.S. responded with the “War on Terror,” a strategy for national security that tested many of our traditional alliances. The Iraq War, opposed by many of our closest allies, led some to believe that the U.S. was embarking on a new path of unilateralism.

The result: less influence with other states and a dramatic decline in America’s global standing. According to a Pew Survey last year, 26 of the 33 countries surveyed had less favorable views of the United States than five years earlier. The German Marshall Fund reports that only 36 percent of Europeans see U.S. leadership as desirable, almost half the number of five years ago. Since the beginning of the conflict in Iraq, at least half the population in countries ranging from Pakistan to Russia to Great Britain has less confidence that the United States is trustworthy, and less faith that it really wants to promote democracy globally.

Yet U.S. leadership is essential to building a better, safer world. In this election year, we should recognize that a new Administration has the opportunity to apply the lessons we have learned from the past, open a new chapter in our relations with the world, and restore American moral leadership and credibility. We need to hear more in this campaign about that challenge and less about lapel pins, imaginary sniper fire, or alleged temper tantrums.

And we need a new conceptual framework. The “War on Terror” falls flat. I think it is time for a new deal in foreign policy called “Cooperative Security and Opportunity.”

Day one of a new Administration will see a flurry of National Security Reviews designed to build a road-map within the first 100 days for the future of American foreign policy. One of those reviews should look at how the U.S. can work more effectively with the United Nations.

A critic can point to the UN’s spotty record – its failure to stop the killing in Darfur, its shortcomings in advancing global development, its focus on a handful of states for opprobrium while ignoring the injustices of others, its scandals and lack of transparency – and ask, “Why bother?” I don’t ask “Why bother?” I ask, “Why not better?” The best must never be the enemy of the good, or even the promising.

For all its faults, the UN is irreplaceable. The international community has no other common forum for debate or instrument for collective action. In this new era, America should commit itself to making the UN more efficient, more responsive, and more effective.

International security must be one of our highest priorities. For centuries, security was understood strictly as “national security” and sovereignty. But the painful lessons of transnational terrorism; of Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur; and lost opportunity from disease, poverty, and underdevelopment have changed that understanding. Concern for security must now include what goes on within states, what happens to persecuted groups and individuals. It must be concerned with deprivation and despair, with the environment and climate change. In the globalized world, no country is an island.

The UN is mobilizing to address these challenges, led by the new Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon. He has set out his priorities in an inspiring document, which he calls a “Magna Carta to lead a world ravaged by unspeakable atrocities to a new association of nations guided by the principles of justice, peace, equality, and human rights.” He commits the UN to facing the “challenges that do not respect borders and which no country, rich or poor, weak or strong, can resolve on its own.”

This past February, Secretary-General Ban came to Chicago to listen to American worries about the world, concerns about the UN, and hopes for progress. He visited the MacArthur Foundation to share his goals and to welcome us as partners in achieving them. We accepted his invitation. In fact, the MacArthur Foundation has made 70 grants to the United Nations and its agencies over the years. In the last 18 months, we supported the Global Forum on Migration and Development, a rapid response fund for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, technical capacity for the Office of Disarmament Affairs. We see the present as an important moment of opportunity, and we are determined to do more.

At a time when our government has been less willing to work through multilateral agencies, Americans have projected the basic values of our country through the generosity of private foundations and the commitment of its citizens working through non-governmental organizations like CARE, Save the Children, Human Rights Watch, The World Wildlife Foundation, The Population Council, and others. Civil society has kept the true face of the American people before the world.

Let me share with you what the MacArthur Foundation is doing with the UN to pursue three goals: justice, security, and dignity. And let us ask ourselves how our government might reassert its leadership in the UN and through other international treaty bodies.


Crimes against humanity, often perpetrated in the name of nation states, require an international system of justice. The Nuremberg tribunals after WWII were a start, but until the UN set up tribunals to deal with ethic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia and genocide in Rwanda, international justice made little progress.

These tribunals laid the way for a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC), established by the “Rome Statute” in 1998. One hundred and six countries have so far joined the Court; the United States has not. The ICC is now in operation, based in The Hague. It prosecutes only the most serious crimes against humanity, and only when national courts are unable, or unwilling, to act.

So far the Court has proceeded against individuals from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Darfur – all accused of serious atrocities, including rape, forced removals, and mass murder. One accused, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo from the DRC (who kidnapped children to be child soldiers), will come to trial in June. But it has not been possible to arrest others: Joseph Kony of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army is still at large. The government of Sudan is protecting Ali Kushayb, a Janjaweed leader, and Ahmad Harun, a former minister of state. And the killing continues in Darfur: 400,000 dead and two million others living on the edge of life in crowded, unsanitary conditions.1

MacArthur believes the Court may be the most important international institution since the founding of the UN itself. We brought NGO representatives from the Global South to help draft the Rome Statute; supported the 2,000-strong NGO Coalition for an International Criminal Court which prodded countries to join; and funded Human Rights Watch and Global Rights to gather evidence about atrocities in the DRC, Uganda, and Sudan.

But our efforts cannot succeed unless the international community is prepared to act on the Court’s warrants. More needs to be done to establish responsibility for apprehending and arresting those charged.

The U.S. feared that membership in the ICC would expose Americans to politically-motivated cases, and pursued bilateral agreements with other nations to assure that they would not hand over any U.S. citizen to the ICC. But the ICC has so far rejected all charges involving Americans – in fact, it dismissed outright all the 240 communications it received concerning the Iraq War, many of which were directed against US personnel .

The Court would certainly be more robust if the U.S. were a member.  American legal expertise would strengthen the early cases and shape the Court's future jurisprudence; our intelligence agencies could provide evidence to ensure successful prosecutions; our troops might even be able to apprehend some fugitives from justice.

The US does not have to be a member to cooperate with the Court. A promising example came when the U.S. allowed the Security Council to refer the situation in Darfur to the ICC in May, 2005. The U.S. shares many of the assumptions and goals of the Court, and there is ample room for collaboration even without American membership. A good opportunity will come in June of this year when the US assumes the presidency of the Security Council. It should lead the UN effort to pressure Sudan to turn over Kushayb and Harun for trial in The Hague.

The ICC gives us grounds for hope that that the era of impunity for atrocities is coming to an end. The Court is functioning well, gaining support, and the threat of prosecution may deter those contemplating such crimes. But the world is not doing enough to prevent terrible atrocities from happening in the first place.


For centuries, the principles of international relations have assumed that interference in the internal affairs of another country was not acceptable. But when technology allows us to know of genocide as it happens, can this principle still apply? And whose responsibility is it to step in?

To address that issue, in 2001 Canada organized an International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. MacArthur supported the Commission, which produced a path-breaking report, The Responsibility to Protect – commonly called “R2P.”

The report articulates a new norm in world affairs: that if states fail to protect their citizens against gross human rights abuses or genocide, that responsibility shifts to the international community. MacArthur is funding the International Crisis Group and others to promote understanding and support of R2P around the world.

The Responsibility to Protect was adopted by the UN in the outcome document of its World Summit in 2005. And Ban Ki-Moon stated at the January African Union 2008 Summit that he would “spare no effort to operationalize R2P.”

The Responsibility to Protect is one of the most significant ethical advances of our era. But the challenge now is to fulfill the commitment. The slow and ineffectual response on Darfur; lack of action in the DRC where there is an epidemic of rape and killing; a refusal to confront the military dictatorship of Myanmar or end Robert Mugabe’s reign of terror in Zimbabwe are examples of where the international community has fallen short of its aspirations and obligations.

We need the U.S. to set aside its differences and disagreements with the UN and lead international efforts to prevent crimes against humanity. Whatever the political difficulties, “never again” should not be a pious wish, but a call to action.

But there are some signs of hope. A Special Advisor on Genocide has been appointed; MacArthur is providing support to staff his Office. Kofi Annan’s recent mediation of the post-election conflict in Kenya was a good example of the Responsibility to Protect in action to avert mass bloodshed, and so far that settlement is holding. While we wish R2P had more wholehearted support, MacArthur will continue to work towards its acceptance in principle and application in practice.


We have talked about justice and security, but what about dignity and opportunity? In 2000, the UN committed itself to a set of eight Millennium Development Goals, to be achieved by 2015, for example combating poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women. They were intended to bring the world together to address the most urgent challenges, set realistic targets, and to give the UN a unified development agenda.

The underlying philosophy behind the Goals was well expressed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his 2005 report, In Larger Freedom. He argued that real international security could only be attained when people everywhere enjoyed acceptable standards of living, access to health and education, and lived in societies that respected their inherent rights. Globalization would succeed only when its benefits were shared fairly.

Last month I attended a conference convened by the President of the United Nations General Assembly to assess progress toward the Goals at the half way point. The Goals are specific: cut in half the number of people living on less than $1 a day; ensure that all children will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling; reduce by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate. The title of the conference was “Recognizing the achievements, addressing the challenges, and getting back on track to achieve the MDG’s by 2015.” That acknowledges the very real danger of falling short of some – perhaps most – of the Goals.

In a talk to the dinner before the assembly, I said responsibility for meeting the Goals goes beyond governments. Private philanthropy, corporations, and wealthy individuals need to help. If the developed world fails to meet its promises, a wave of cynicism and despair will follow. Trust will be in short supply.

The United States government continues to be the world’s largest distributor of international aid, responsible for almost a quarter of the developed world total. But, as a proportion of GDP, America’s giving looks less generous. The MDGs were predicated on wealthy nations devoting 0.7 percent of GNP to achieving them (a target set almost 40 years ago). U.S. foreign non-military assistance is only at about 0.17 percent, one of the lowest figures of any industrialized nation. This proportion has been holding steady since the early 1980’s, with a slight uptick from 2004.

Some recent initiatives are encouraging. The U.S. campaign against HIV/AIDS in Africa deserves praise. The Millennium Challenge Fund, established in 2002, has taken a new approach to foreign aid. Working on the premise that aid will be more effective in nations that have good economic and social policies, the Fund enters into agreements only with those that meet clear targets for good governance. But these conditions have so far have limited participation to 15 countries, a pace too slow for the MDG timetable.

But there is also a role for private philanthropy. Gates, Rockefeller, Ford and MacArthur, among others, are helping the US do its part in meeting the goals. MacArthur, with limited resources, has decided to dedicate its efforts to reaching one of the goals: MDG #5, to reduce maternal mortality by 75 percent.

More than half-a-million women die each year from pregnancy complications – about one every minute. These deaths are in large measure preventable with good health care and counseling.

MacArthur will spend 50 million dollars over the next 5 years on MDG #5. We are already working in India and Nigeria which together account for one third of all maternal deaths. In India, for example, we have supported a home-based neonatal care program that will be adopted by the governments of five states in Northern India. In Nigeria we are training traditional birth attendants and midwives who work in rural villages.

And we are undertaking large-scale trials of a package of interventions that holds the promise of reducing deaths from post partum hemorrhage by 80 percent. Post partum hemorrhage accounts for more than one-third of maternal deaths. An inexpensive drug, misoprostol, can prevent hemorrhage in up to 50 percent of cases. And an anti shock garment – made of neoprene with Velcro fastenings – stops the hemorrhaging for up to 48 hours, enough time to transport a woman to a health clinic.

It is unfortunate that there have been disagreements between U.S. policy and many of the organizations that work to reduce maternal mortality. Groups that receive U.S. government funds are prohibited from offering, counseling about, or advocating for abortion services. The provision is known as the “global gag rule.” Many family planning groups that work in developing countries offer a range of services, including maternal and neonatal care, but also abortion counseling. They have consequently lost their funding. A resolution of this issue would strengthen efforts to reduce maternal mortality around the world.

The Millennium Development Goals are vital not only to the wellbeing of millions in need, but also to the future of the developed nations and to us in the United States. Poverty, ignorance, and desperation breed resentment, unrest, and aggression. Our security depends on ensuring better lives and opening opportunity for those who share the planet with us.

The MacArthur Foundation is hoping for a new day in America’s relations with the world: a spirit of partnership, a willingness to engage, an openness to dialogue, a determination to regain its leadership in setting norms that call forth humankind’s best values.

That is the challenge for our new President. I believe the American people are ready to respond. A June poll by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs found 69 percent of Americans thought the US should be active in world affairs, that 60 percent believe the US should work closely with the UN to relieve conflict, that 71 percent favored joining the ICC. Let us listen to the wisdom of the American people and reclaim our leadership through the United Nations in that spirit. In the words of Franklin Roosevelt, “This generation has a rendezvous with destiny.“ And that destiny is to confront challenges and seize opportunities in a new way, more cooperative, more respectful, more effective.

I really believe we are at a watershed moment in our history. Let’s make the best of it.

Human Rights, Justice, Peace & Security