Date: Feb. 15, 2022
Location: Washington, DC

Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Chair of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Development, International Organizations, and Global Corporate Social Impact, delivered the following statement to open the subcommittee's hearing on "Renewed American Engagement with International Organizations: Goals, Priorities, and Successes."

(As prepared for delivery)

Thank you for joining me at this important hearing. I want to extend a warm welcome to our witness today, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Michele J. Sison.

Congratulations on your confirmation. On this subcommittee, we know the importance of your role.

Throughout your career, you've answered the call to public service in tough jobs, and this will be a challenging role, particularly as the bureau is still recovering from personnel turnover and political retaliation documented by the Inspector General under the previous administration.

I know many other nominees to the United Nations and international organizations are still waiting for confirmation, and I hope the Senate will move swiftly to get these individuals fully in place.

I hope this hearing, marking America's renewed engagement with international organizations, will also signal renewed engagement between the Department and Congress on this issue.

This is the first hearing in the House Foreign Affairs Committee with a Senate-confirmed Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs since 2003 and it's an opportunity to speak to the role multilateralism and international organizations plays in U.S. foreign policy.

Both my colleagues and the larger public would benefit from the opportunity to understand and engage with your work more regularly, particularly since your work is just as important as those of many other bureaus at the Department of State who have frequent opportunities to testify in front of the Congress.

The system of international organizations established in the wake of World War II is an incredible achievement we cannot take for granted. The United Nations kept the peace between major powers for decades and plays a critical role in peacekeeping around the world. The U.N. system and other institutions have also helped to advance technical and humanitarian cooperation in many areas.

At the same time, more than seventy-five years after the signing of the United Nations Charter, we see more and more signs that the edifice of international order is in need of renewal:

We face new challenges like climate change and climate-driven migration. Previously esoteric questions about technical standards and governance increasingly have major impacts on geopolitics and on how we live our lives.

And we face old challenges in a new guise:

Whether that's a worldwide pandemic, or armies massing on international borders with threats of invasion.

Russia's military buildup and potential invasion of Ukraine is a major challenge to a postwar order that was founded--with Russia present at the creation--to repudiate the idea that unprovoked aggression like what we saw in two World Wars was an acceptable basis for international relations.

During today's hearing, I will be interested in hearing from you how international organizations have kept the peace and what changes we need to make to ensure that these international organizations continue to be relevant and effective.

But fortunately, in the decades since World War II, we have found new partners as well.

We have seen Japan and Germany--as well as new powers like India--demonstrate that they have a stake in international order and the capability to help address some of the urgent problems of our time. I believe it's time to ask whether institutions drawn up according to wartime or colonial alignments from decades ago reflect the world today.

With all that in mind, I hope that during this hearing we will hear not only how you are renewing American engagement with international organizations, but also how they might be reimagined to maintain their foundational place in a rapidly changing world.

I appreciate the State Department and your team's willingness to work with this Committee on a range of priorities over the last year.

Technical assistance from your bureau was invaluable as I developed my legislation with Subcommittee Vice-Chair Sara Jacobs to support greater U.S. participation in international organizations, as well as a bill Representative Jacobs and I are leading to make sure we're meeting our obligations to fund peacekeeping at the U.N. Both of those bills passed the House recently as part of the COMPETES Act.

A senior member of your team--Ambassador Erica Barks-Ruggles--testified during our subcommittee's last hearing about efforts to contest U.N. elections and place more Americans within international organizations--both being important bipartisan priorities.

Throughout all that, your bureau has been very responsive and great to work with. And I hope that we can continue to work in that cooperative and bipartisan manner as we address the policy and management challenges facing the Bureau of International Organization Affairs during your tenure.

Once again, congratulations on your confirmation and welcome to the subcommittee. I look forward to your testimony.

With that, I will now turn it over to Ranking Member Malliotakis for her opening remarks.