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Ambassador Series

An Interview with Rosemary A. DiCarlo, U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations

USA Rosemary DiCarloRosemary A. DiCarlo was sworn in as the U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations on July 8, 2010. DiCarlo served as the Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations between the tenures of Ambassadors Susan Rice and Samantha Power as U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. During this transitional period, DiCarlo also functioned as the President of the United Nations Security Council in July 2013. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, she previously served as U.S. Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs to the United Nations, and as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the Department of State. DiCarlo has also served as the Director for United Nations Affairs at the National Security Council and Washington Deputy to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. DiCarlo’s overseas assignments included tours at the U.S. Embassies in Moscow and Oslo. She also held the positions of U.S. Coordinator for Stability Pact Implementation (Southeast Europe) and Director for Democratic Initiatives for the New Independent States at the Department of State. DiCarlo is a recipient of the Department of State’s Sustained Superior Achievement, Superior Honor and Meritorious Honor Awards. Before joining the Foreign Service, she was a member of the Secretariat of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). She holds a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. from Brown University and speaks Russian and French.

The Politic: Why did you join the Foreign Service?

I always was interested in international affairs and working with foreign cultures. I actually started working in the system with my first real job, which was at UNESCO in Paris. It became very clear to me that I could probably make more of an impact if I joined my own national service, at least for a certain period of time. I took the Foreign Service exam, was accepted — I was surprised frankly — and started in a career that has kept me now for twenty-nine years in this business, and I haven’t regretted a day of it.

The Politic: Do you have any advice for students who are interested in a career in the Foreign Service?

I think first of all it is very important to do other things before you embark upon this career. It could be graduate school, work with the Peace Corps or the UN system, really whatever grants you a broader perspective and allows you to understand a little better about how others are reacting to your government’s policies or your government’s positions on a range of issues and especially to your own culture. I also think living abroad is extremely important before you join the government.

The Politic: You have lived overseas, notably in Moscow. Was that an influential time for your career?

That was fantastic. I was a graduate student in Moscow first and in very interesting times when Brezhnev was the General-Secretary of the Communist Party. It was a very closed period, and then I went back in 1987 — it was my second assignment — and that was a period when things were opening up. Gorbachev was the General Secretary, and that was the period of Perestroika and Glasnost. I really learned how to navigate my way in a foreign country because we had no local employees. This was after the spy scandal, and the Soviet government then pulled out all of our Soviet employees. For a period of time, it was just Foreign Service officers doing everything from servicing our cars to carrying boxes of books and papers around the Mission and doing the housekeeping in addition to the diplomatic work we needed to do.

The Politic: Throughout your long and distinguished career has there been a single person or event that has been most influential either in your career path or one or more of your policies?

It is difficult to say because there have been a number of things that were really influential. One was obviously all of the work that I have done with the Soviet Union. In particular, the time during the coup that toppled the Soviet Union was an incredible experience. I was back in Washington working at the Soviet desk at the time when that happened. I have to say that even though I had left Moscow eight months prior to that event, I did not anticipate it coming so quickly. You could see that the society was opening up and with more and more people traveling and with the advent of the Internet that it was very hard to control information, but I never expected it would happen. It was quite momentous to be a part of.

There are two other happenings that really have affected me. One was when I was working at John Negroponte’s Washington office. I was actually hired by Jim Cunningham who was the Deputy Ambassador here, and Ambassador Negroponte and I were working on his confirmation and going over various materials only to see on the screen that the towers were coming down in New York. Ambassador Negroponte was confirmed on September 15 [as the Ambassador to the United Nations], and it was a period when we really, I think, used the UN to its best advantage, getting resolutions on counterterrorism, setting up counterterrorism committees, and getting support for our actions in Afghanistan. It was quite amazing to be working with everybody here, and we found tremendous support at that time.

The final one, which I think was also very important for the international community to be working on, was the issue of Kosovo’s final status, and working with our colleagues in Europe and additionally with the Russians, though they sort of dropped out of the process, on helping to create an independent Kosovo.

The Politic: Transitioning to your current tenure as ambassador to the United Nations, in July, between the tenures of Ambassador Rice and Ambassador Power, you served not only as the Chargé d’Affaires but also as the President of the Security Council.  Could you talk about what it was like to be President of the Security Council and also how your role differed from any other member?

It is a tremendous responsibility when you are the President of the Security Council because, not only do you have your own government’s interest at stake, but you have to be an even broker and try to bring the Council together. You try to move forward on a range of issues, allowing everybody to express their concerns, but certainly achieving it in such a way that you do not appear at all as if you are just driving your own agenda. It is certainly a challenge, and it is probably the biggest challenge I have had since I have been here.

We had a pretty good month. We were very fortunate in moving towards a number of resolutions that needed bandaids of either peacekeeping operations or special court resolutions. We did a fantastic debate on the [African] Great Lakes region where Secretary Kerry came in and chaired a session. He really put a lot of emphasis on this part of Africa and the need for the international community to remain committed.

We did another event on the protection of journalists, which was the first time this was done in seven years. 2006 was the last time the Security Council discussed this issue. In the past, we’ve discussed the protection of civilians, but we hadn’t focused on journalists and their role in conflict for seven years. During this event, we had four very influential journalists who have reported from conflict zones come and brief the Council. It was really quite an experience, and we got a lot of support I think for, one, the role that journalists play for us as far as providing information when we are not able to be in these areas; and, two, the kinds of risks that they face.

The Politic: As a diplomat to the United Nations, are you trained differently in the art of multi-lateral diplomacy than one of your colleagues at an embassy overseas?

Interestingly enough, for the longest time, we did not have special training courses for multi-lateral diplomacy. Diplomacy was diplomacy. We do now, though I have to say that it came after I started doing my UN work, so I didn’t benefit from these courses.

Multilateral diplomacy is different; it is very different. First of all, if you are at the UN, you are dealing with 192 other countries, which is very different from dealing with one country. You become aware of how flexible you really can be in such a setting. Your agenda is such that it can change by the day depending on the crisis. There are some issues that are perfectly ripe for UN engagement where we really can do a lot — whether it be mandating a peacekeeping operation or mediation by a UN envoy. There are others that are not, so it is not as if we play a role in every single issue here; however, when we do, we play a very important role.

The other thing that is essential is flexibility and compromise in that you have to understand that if you are going to get something, you have got to give. If our priority is to combat proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, another guy’s priority is something quite different. If you expect them to support you in your major priority, then you have to help them too, and that is a huge part of what we do. It happens that because there are so many countries with very differing concerns and interests, you have got to be playing at all levels right now: the development area, the human rights area, climate change, et cetera.

The Politic: As a representative from the United States do you feel as if you act the same towards all of the delegations or do you feel you have to cater towards other customs and negotiating styles within the UN?

I think you have to be sensitive to your interlocutor, and that can just be as an individual not necessarily culturally, but you do have to be very, very sensitive to the approach that you take. I think the most important thing for us is to be good listeners in addition to promoting our own agenda. One, being good listeners, and, two, being part of the community are really important.

The Politic: Are there any delegations that have reputations for being the hardest negotiators?

Oh, there are a few. [Laughs] Interestingly enough, there are some countries that send their absolutely very, very best officials. We see a lot of permanent representatives who were foreign ministers in their countries before they came here or they leave here to become foreign ministers.  They’re top-notch, and they’re tough. We’re all here to promote the interests of our countries, and some of them do it extremely well and can make for formidable interlocutors.

The Politic: Does any single nation come to mind?

Oh, I don’t think I’d go into singling them out; there are a few of them though. I think you probably know too.

The Politic: Fair enough. [Laughs] Do you feel any added weight as the representative of the United States of America?

USA DiCarloYes — there’s no question. First of all, one thing that I learned very early on in my career, and it particularly happens in a multilateral setting, is that when the United States speaks at a meeting, everybody stops to listen in the room; you can hear a pin drop. Every word that you say has meaning for people, so you can’t misspeak. Secondly, they do look to us to solve a lot of problems, and sometimes we can be helpful though sometimes, frankly, it is beyond our ability to do so. We are looked at to help resolve issues. I think we are held to high standards — we hold ourselves to high standards as well — and it is a special burden.

The Politic: Let’s talk a little about the Security Council. Do you feel as if there is a need for Security Council reform in order to reflect changing world powers?

We are very clear and on record in support of reforming the Council. We have said that we support modest expansion of both permanent and non-permanent members. We think it is important for the Council to reflect that we are living in the 21st century. There are emerging powers that do play a role and can certainly play a constructive role as members of the Council. We have also made it clear that we want to see that there is a broad consensus because what we do not need is divisions within the UN and greater divisions than what we have now.

The Politic: If Security Council reform is to happen, any ideas on what it would look like or the steps that would be needed to actually get to that point?

Frankly, I think it’s going to take a while. To get to the point of having a broad consensus, we need a General Assembly resolution that is adopted by two-thirds, and it needs to be ratified because this is part of the treaty. It is a long time in coming, and it will take some time. I think that the key though is that we continue discussing and countries that are playing a role in the security, political, and economic arenas come forward and are able to play the kind of role that a member of the council has to play.

If you are a permanent member, and I can say this for all five permanent members, we really do take our responsibilities very seriously. We may have serious disagreements with some permanent members on some issues — that’s clear, as you have seen with some of the issues we haven’t been able to move forward in the Council in the last couple of years. That said, we all take the Council and our roles seriously, and we take the mandate the council is given very seriously. That is important.

The Politic: Are you optimistic that this kind of reform will happen in the foreseeable future?

I think it will happen; however, I do not think it will happen very soon because of the fact that we see disagreements in various regions on who should have a permanent seat. There is also an underlying discussion on what the Council should be doing in the twenty-first century. What is its role? What is its mandate?  We very much feel that the Council has to, when needed, enact sanctions. That is what is happening to curb let’s say a nuclear program by Iran or North Korea. We also feel that the mandate to use force, when that is absolutely necessary, should be there.  We have a view that the Council has a responsibility to maintain decent security around the world, not just to cross-border conflicts, but internally within a country as well. We need to have the consensus of what the Council should do, and that is the part that doesn’t get written about a lot.

The Politic: Since you first joined the Foreign Service, have you seen the United States’ relationship or cooperation with the UN change over time?

Interesting. I think that there is a steady stream of cooperation with the United Nations over the years, and again I say this having started out my career in the UN system. I think that we see that after the end of the Cold War it became very clear that we could do a lot more through the UN. There were many more peacekeeping operations, many more resolutions, counterterrorism cooperation, and cooperation even in non-proliferation, which was more done in Vienna through the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]. We were able to lead here through a committee that we set up to deal with proliferation by non-state actors.

I think we see today we have been more involved now in some of the economic and social programs that the UN has to offer, such as in developing norms beyond the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. So it does evolve with time. The one constant that I do see is with the U.N. specialized agencies: UNICEF, World Food Programme, World Health Organization — the heroes of the UN system.

The Politic: So if that is how the UN has changed from the past up to today, do you see any overarching changes looking forward into the future?

Looking at the U.N. in the future, I think that we really do have to come to terms with certain complexities more within the Security Council realm, such as what do we mean by the ‘responsibility to protect.’ Where does the U.N. play a role here? What do we mean when we say protection of civilians? These are the broader, more thematic issues as opposed to the specific, regional conflict questions.

Something that is under discussion is, “How do we prevent atrocities?” It is not just a question of reacting when something has happened. How do we prevent them? That is where I see the UN evolving where we work more on mediation and prevention than just on the reaction to various conflicts and atrocities after the fact.

The Politic: With regards to changing over time, do you see the Security Council paying more attention to non-state actors?

Absolutely we have, since frankly September 11, paid a lot more attention to non-state actors both in terms of the terrorist threat, but also in terms of proliferation. This is an area where we have got to focus more and must continue to develop the tools to deal with that threat.

The Politic: In Ambassador Power’s first speech as Ambassador she was critical of the red tape within the United Nations. Do you feel as if this is something that keeps the UN from its principal goal of maintaining peace and security?

I think that bureaucracies, when large, can be difficult sometimes when you want to take action.  In the UN bureaucracy, because the UN is composed of so many different countries and so many cultures, it can be petty at times. There’s the need to ensure that the UN is not divided on a range of issues because, frankly, when there is broad consensus we can do far more. So it can be difficult at times to move things forward. Furthermore, the Secretariat and Secretary-General are supposed to be dealing with states, and sometimes you don’t resolve problems just by dealing with the government — you resolve problems by dealing with civil society too.

The Politic: On the same note of division, and on a subject that you touched upon earlier with regards to the ‘responsibility to protect,’ I was hoping we could talk about the situation in Syria. Namely, are you hopeful for any form of substantive action coming from the Security Council?

I think it has been a huge disappointment. I would say that this is the most disappointing issue that I have had to deal with since I have been here at the UN because we have been unable to come together with any reasonable action — any action that could help resolve the situation whether it would be through sanctions or actual condemnation of where we have seen violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. I am cautiously, wouldn’t say optimistic, but hopeful, that we can actually do something in the Council. I am hopeful that the Council can come together at some point to deal with the humanitarian crisis that is really overwhelming now in Syria and its neighbors. I am also hopeful that the United Nations with the Council’s support can do something about the allegations of possible use of chemical weapons. So I am hopeful we can do something, and I am certainly hopeful that we can work with everybody on the Council and with all other parties to have a meaningful conference that can bring about the kind of peaceful transition that we agreed a year ago was necessary.

The Politic: Throughout your time serving within the United Nations, have you come across any situation similar to this current one of such intense gridlock on an issue of such global importance?

This is the worst impasse we have had. There are other areas in the past — certainly the way we have dealt with issues like with Burma a while back, Zimbabwe, and Sri Lanka even, where we were unable to come to terms within the Council on various statements or measures. We were, however, working with others in the UN system to lead the way forward on a range of things, and certainly on Burma we have seen huge change. Of course, our national policies made a difference here as well.

This is perhaps the most difficult one that I have seen. It takes time here. This is when we talk about compromise and the small steps that we take on a range of things, but on this one we have not really been successful.


The Politic: If we could touch upon the deploying of three thousand troops in the Congo, I would like to ask how this decision was reached. This is such as monumental decision, as it marks the first time that the UN will send its troops into battle as opposed to delegating the fighting to willing nations. Secondly, do you believe that this sets a precedent moving forward?

First of all, the decision was reached because of the dire circumstances on the ground and the need to do something, and the need to have properly trained troops, as well as properly equipped troops, with the kind of logistical support that only the UN could offer. In this case, having a UN operation, and not a national government going in or even a coalition of national governments, is far more acceptable to the parties in question. Because of the twenty-some-odd years that we have been dealing with this issue and not seeing the kinds of results that we would like, this decision was reached. Does this set a precedent? Would we do it again? We would take every case as it comes. No one is looking to replicate this because when it was decided it was decided this is not what we are going to be doing from now on in the future in various places, but rather this is what is needed today. Similarly, in Somalia, when we decided to support the African Union with a UN logistics package, we did it because that was the only way that we could piece together the kind of support that was needed.

The Politic: Looking back on your entire career is there a single achievement of which you are most proud?

I have to say that looking back, the thing I will always say was probably the high point was working on the Kosovo final status. It is pretty amazing when you work and see finally a population that obtains the kind of freedom that it has wanted for a long time after having been oppressed. It is working to build institutions and to take part in various institutions around the world — not the United Nations yet, but that will come someday. That is pretty amazing.

The Politic: As a final question — in serving in the United Nations, how do you feel that the United States is both represented and perceived abroad by other nations? As a second part of this final question, are there any elements of U.S. foreign policy that you would seek to change?

First of all, I think that we are perceived in various ways. Beauty that is in the eye of the beholder depends on the positions and views of certain countries by themselves and how they perceive us. Here in New York, I would say that the United States on the one hand is both respected and in some cases criticized when we are not living up to certain challenges. Sometimes we are criticized for being naïve. By and large I think we are respected here. It is understood that we do take the UN seriously, and I think you can say that about any administration — certainly the time of Ambassador Negroponte — and it is very clear that we do respect others, we respect their views, we respect their intellect, and we respect the UN as an institution.

Around the world, having served in various parts of the world, I have observed on the one hand a respect for our can-do attitude if you will, and on the other hand amazement that sometimes we view things so simplistically.

Just one thing I should have said earlier when we talked about difficult negotiators and so forth — the one thing that one learns here very quickly is that what we do is business; we are professionals. We may have a disagreement within the Security Council, but as soon as we walk out the door it goes away. Personal relationships are important, as is keeping everything on an even keel and remembering that this is not personal; it is professional.


The United States Mission to the United Nations: http://usun.state.gov

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