Campaign Promises

Other/Miscellaneous -> United Nations


ItemUnited Nations
Convention ParticipationGrade
UN-1
The Promise: "Will re-engage with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) - the main international forum dedicated to addressing the climate problem."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan for America entitled: "Blueprint for Change" dated 10/09/08.
Source: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/550007-barack-obama-2008-blueprint-for-change.html
Status:President Obama addressed the UNFCC at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP15) on 12/18/09. According to a document entitled the "Copenhagen Accord," a 2010 deadline for reaching a legally binding climate treaty between UNFCC participating nations was dropped and no global target for cutting greenhouse gases was set.

President Obama elected not to attend COP16 (Cancun), COP17 (Durban), COP18 (Doha), COP19 (Warsaw), and COP20 (Lima) during which the finer points of a binding agreement were ironed out. He finally attended COP21 in Paris during which participating nations concluded what is now known as the "Paris Climate Change Agreement."

This promise was for President Obama to "re-engage" with the UNFCC, and he did.

This promise was fulfilled.
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UN-2
The Promise: "...will renew America's leadership by making the United States a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Empower Americans with Disabilities," dated 09/06/08.
Source: http://www.thearc.org/document.doc?id=3073
Status:The USA became the 141st signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on 07/30/09.

Ratification of the CRPD by the Senate is a different matter altogether. This promise was for the USA to become a signatory to the CRPD and this happened. Then-Candidate Obama did not promise that he would get it ratified by the Senate.

This promise was fulfilled.
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UN-3
The Promise: "...will also create a Global Energy Forum of the world's largest emitters to focus exclusively on global energy and environmental issues."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan for America entitled: "Blueprint for Change" dated 10/09/08.
Source: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/550007-barack-obama-2008-blueprint-for-change.html
Status:In 03/28/09, President Obama initiated the Global Energy Forum under a different name: the "Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF)." There are 17 participating countries that together account for about 80% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

This promise was fulfilled.
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UN-4
The Promise: "...will ensure that the U.S. provides leadership in enforcing international wildlife protection agreements, including strengthening the international moratorium on commercial whaling. Allowing Japan to continue commercial whaling is unacceptable."
When/Where: Candidate Obama response to a Greenpeace letter dated 03/16/08.
Source: https://www.distantocean.com/2010/03/theres-an-ahab-in-the-white-house.html?cid=6a00d834200af253ef0133ec3bafd2970b#comment-6a00d834200af253ef0133ec3bafd2970b
Status:The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) was originally signed by the USA and 14 other nations, including Japan, on 12/02/46. Under the ICRW, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was created.

The IWC adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling in CY1982 and created a Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in CY1994. Japan was the sole member of the IWC to oppose this santuary and continued its commercial whaling practices.

The 61st annual meeting of the IWC in Madeira, Portugal on 06/22-24/09 under USA chairmanship and with 71 of the 85 "contracting governments" participating. Nothing came out of this meeting that strengthened the moratorium on commercial whaling. The meeting's report indicated that Japan caught 1,000 whales during the 2008/2009 whaling season under a "special permit."

The 62nd annual meeting of the IWC took place in Agadir, Morocco on 06/21-25/10. The "Future of the IWC" was a prominent agenda item, because the future existence if the IWC was uncertain. During this meeting, talks aimed at reducing whaling by Japan, Norway and Iceland collapsed. Even a compromise plan proposed by the USA and other anti-whaling nations that would have allowed these three countries to resume commercial whaling but at significantly lower levels and under tight monitoring failed.

On 07/20/11, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke recommended that sanctions be levied against Iceland based on his belief that Iceland was in violation of the Pelly Amendment to the "Fishermen's Protective Act of 1967." His letter to President Obama stated that Iceland was "conducting fishing operations which diminish the effectiveness of an international fishery conservation program." President Obama waived the requested sanctions on 09/15/11.

Without the promised Obama Administration leadership, Japan continued its whaling activities in the North Pacific and Antarctic regions as a compromise move to permit continued approval of catches by the Alaskan Inuit tribe under a clause allowing Aboriginal subsistence whaling.

On 03/31/14, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands ordered a temporary cessation of Japan's Antarctic whaling activities in the southern Pacific Ocean, stating that Japan's harvesting of 850 whales annually was excessive to its stated "scientific research" requirements.

As of end-CY2016, after a brief hiatus in the CY2014-15 timeframe, Japan resumed its commercial harvesting of primarily minke whales under the guise of "scientific research."

This promise was not fulfilled.
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UN-5
The Promise: "will...make the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015, America's goals."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "To Secure America and Restore our Standing," undated.
Source: http://www.acronym.org.uk/old/proliferation-challenges/regional-challenges/iran/barack-obama-and-joe-biden-us-foreign-policy-issues-october-2008?page=show
Status:At the Millennium Summit of CY2000, eight major goals were set by the United Nations, principal among which was to halve the number of people living on less than $1.00 per day -- a goal to be reached by CY2015. These became known as the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs).

In an address to the United Nations MDG Review Summit on 09/22/10, President Obama confirmed the adoption of the UN's MDG as America's goals by stating: "...this can be our plan, not simply for meeting our Millennium Development Goals, but for exceeding them, and then sustaining them for generations to come."

The United Nations "Millenium Development Goals Report of 2015" indicated that the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 47% in CY1990 to 14% in CY2015, a reduction from over 1.9B people to less than 840M -- less than half the CY1990 rate.

This promise was fulfilled.
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Nuclear Non-ProliferationGrade
UN-6
The Promise: "...will work with our allies and other countries to achieve a successful outcome in 2010 that strengthens the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)."
When/Where: Fact Sheet: "Confronting 21st Century Threats" dated 07/16/08.
Source: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/press-release-fact-sheet-obamas-new-plan-confront-21st-century-threats
Status:President Obama presided over a historic summit meeting on 09/24/09 at the UN during which 13 other Heads of State and Government and the UN Security Council pledged support to mitigate "long-stalled efforts to staunch the proliferation of nuclear weapons and ensure reductions in existing weapons stockpiles, as well as control of fissile materials.

This resulted in the unanimous adoption of UN Resolution 1887 which called for the setting of realistic goals for the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR).

The month-long conference that ended on 05/28/10 in New York served as a recovery from the failed NPR of 2005. The 2010 NPR also served to reaffirm the commitment of 189 countries toward the NPT. Further, President Obama succeeded in securing strong language on safeguards, NPT compliance, support for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and his detailed plan for nuclear disarmament. This was reflected in a final document that included an action plan for disarmament, nonproliferation, peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and eventually attaining a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East. This was a small step towards strengthening the NPT.

This promise was fulfilled.
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UN-7
The Promise: "...will convene a summit in 2009 (and regularly thereafter) of leaders of Permanent Members of the UN Security Council and other key countries to agree on implementing many of these measures on a global basis."
When/Where: Fact Sheet: "Confronting 21st Century Threats" dated 07/16/08.
Source: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/press-release-fact-sheet-obamas-new-plan-confront-21st-century-threats
Status:Then-Candidate Obama was very specific concerning the convening of the first Nuclear Security Summit in CY2009.

The first Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington, D.C. on 04/12-13/10 (not CY2009), with a focus on nuclear terrorism. Its result was a non-binding, non-enforceable, non-treaty communique that reflected a dubious international commitment to secure all nuclear materials by CY2015.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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UN-8
The Promise: "...will work with the Senate to secure the ratification of the CTBT at the earliest practical date and will then launch a diplomatic effort to bring on board other states whose ratifications are required for the treaty to enter into force."
When/Where: Fact Sheet: "Confronting 21st Century Threats" dated 07/16/08.
Source: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/press-release-fact-sheet-obamas-new-plan-confront-21st-century-threats
Status:On 10/13/99, the Senate rejected ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), signed by the USA on 09/24/96. Ratification by signatory countries is considered crucial to keeping the wider-scoped Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty viable.

As of end-CY2016, 166 of 183 countries had ratified the CTBT. The USA was one of the 5 nuclear-capable countries that had signed the CTBT but had not yet ratified it. Before the CTBT can take effect, ratification by signatories China, Egypt, Iran and Israel is also required. So too is signature and ratification by India, North Korea and Pakistan.

Support from two-thirds of the Senate is required for ratification of the CTBT by the USA to take place.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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UN-9
The Promise: "...will crack down on nuclear proliferation by strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that countries like North Korea and Iran that break the rules will automatically face strong international sanctions."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan for America entitled: "Blueprint for Change" dated 10/09/08.
Source: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/550007-barack-obama-2008-blueprint-for-change.html
Status:During President Obama's two terms in office, North Korea and Iran adopted an "in your face" attitude and continued to develop nuclear capabilities with impunity.

In all fairness, a nuclear security summit involving 38 heads of state and 9 senior national representatives was convened in Washington, D.C. in mid-04/10 and President Obama then met with international partners at the United Nations in 05/10 to review global efforts on nuclear non-proliferation.

While these events led to stronger international sanctions against Iran, nothing of substance came about against North Korea to supplement the sanctions imposed against that country after two nuclear tests in CY2006 and CY2009 respectively. Since then, North Korea succeeded in building a uranium enrichment plant and completed work on a new long-range ballistic missile launch site at Donchang-ri. It tested such a missile in 02/13, on President Obama's watch.

Shipping/transportation loopholes in the sanctions against North Korea facilitated its illegal exportation of ballistic missiles, components and technology to the Middle East (notably Iran).

North Korea is also suspected of having helped Myanmar build a nuclear reactor and plutonium extraction plant that would have permitted Myanmar to build nuclear weaponry as early as CY2014. However, the new government of President Thein Sein promised Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in 06/11 that it was abandoning its pursuit of any nuclear capabilities.

Back to Iran. During the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference held in Hawaii on 11/12-13/11, President Obama failed to convince the leaders of Russia and China to join him in pushing for more severe sanctions against Iran in the aftermath of a UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 11/11 report that Iran was rapidly developing nuclear weapons.

The promised 'automatic' implementation of sanctions against any country that breaks the rules (such as Iran and North Korea) did not happened. In fact, on 01/12/16 President Obama signed an Executive Order revoking a 20-year system of sanctions against Iran for pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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UN-10
The Promise: "...will...work with other nuclear powers to reduce global stockpiles dramatically by the end of an Obama presidency."
When/Where: Fact Sheet: "Confronting 21st Century Threats" dated 07/16/08.
Source: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/press-release-fact-sheet-obamas-new-plan-confront-21st-century-threats
Status:The only nuclear power with which the USA has aggressively worked with the objective of nuclear stockpile reductions is Russia. A "New START" treaty was signed on 04/08/10 in Prague by Presidents Obama and Medvedev. It was ratified by the U.S. Senate in a 71-26 vote on 12/22/10, and by the Russian Government on 01/28/11.

The "other nuclear powers" addressed in this promise (i.e. France, United Kingdon, China, Pakistan, India, etc.) have not been engaged meaningfully to reduce their nuclear stockpiles. We won't even address North Korea and Iran.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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UN-11
The Promise: "...will institutionalize the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), a global initiative aimed at stopping shipments of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, and related materials worldwide...will expand the responsibilities of its members, not only in stopping illicit nuclear shipments, but also in eradicating nuclear black market networks."
When/Where: Fact Sheet: "Confronting 21st Century Threats" dated 07/16/08.
Source: https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/press-release-fact-sheet-obamas-new-plan-confront-21st-century-threats
Status:The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) was initiated by President Bush on 05/31/03 to interdict shipments of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and related materials (chemical, biological, nuclear) to terrorists and countries believed to harbor desires to develop and/or produce WMD.

105 countries have recognized the PSI, including Russia, based on participation and not membership. China, concerned about the legality of interdictions, has declined to participate in PSI, as have, notably, North Korea, Indonesia, Iran, Myanmar, Syria and Pakistan.

As of end-CY2016, the PSI's effectiveness was hindered by scarce financial resources, lack of global coverage, unresolved issues regarding inspection of vessels in international waters, the absence of any permanent institutional structure and the absence of any requirement for participants to accept any binding legal commitments to carry out the intended interdictions.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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UN-12
The Promise: "...will lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons materials at vulnerable sites within four years - the most effective way to prevent terrorists from acquiring a nuclear bomb."
When/Where: Obama Campaign Document "A 21st Century Military for America" dated 11/26/07.
Source: http://obama.3cdn.net/303d3f8f5e85133bae_9ypmvyari.pdf
Status:President Obama provided leadership and guidance during the 04/12-13/10 Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, D.C.

During this summit, 47 nations succeeded in establishing concrete actions and decisions ranging from securing all of the world's vulnerable nuclear materials within 4 years to reducing the availability of highly enriched uranium and plutonium.

However, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) acknowledged on 02/14/11 that the IAEA remained concerned about reports that Iran and North Korea continued to build new nuclear facilities and their research on nuclear weaponization. Further, the IAEA issued a restricted report to its board and to the UN Security Council in early 11/11 that described Iran's nuclear work as "specific to nuclear weapons."

As of end-CY2016, nuclear weapons materials were believed to be available to bad actors Iran and North Korea, a status unchanged from the pre-Obama era. Consequently, the risks related to their potential acquisition by terrorist organizations remained extremely high throughout President Obama's two terms in office.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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UN-13
The Promise: "...will stop the development of new nuclear weapons..."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan "Blueprint for Change" dated 10/09/08.
Source: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/550007-barack-obama-2008-blueprint-for-change.html
Status:IRAN: On 06/09/10, the UN Security Council voted 12 to 2 in favor of U.S. sponsored sanctions against Iran over its suspected nuclear program, believed by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to be for the development of new nuclear weapons. These sanctions were not effective and Iran continued to develop new nuclear capabilities. As a result of an 11/11 IAEA report, President Obama tried to convince the leaders of Russia and China to join him in pushing for more severe sanctions against Iran during the 21-nation Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference held in Hawaii on 11/12-13/11. Both nations did not support President Obama's initiative and the matter was not brought up for a UN Security Council vote.

NORTH KOREA: UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea have been imposed repeatedly since North Korea first conducted nuclear tests in CY2006. These sanctions did not deter North Korea. Its development of long-range nuclear weapons continued throughout President Obama's second term in office.

MYANMAR: Throughout President Obama's first term in office, North Korea (with Russian assistance) was suspected of transferring nuclear technology and resources to Myanmar for that country to develop nuclear capabilities by CY2014. By end-CY2012, however, the State Department reported that these suspicions were without basis. Myanmar, however, is known to continue its nuclear research initiatives with Russian assistance.

SYRIA: In cooperation with North Korea and Iran, Syria is known to have a nuclear research facility. A Syrian nuclear reactor at Kibar near the city of Deir al-Zor on the banks of the Euphrates River was destroyed by Israel in 09/07. Since then, Syria has been uncooperative with the IAEA in the UN's efforts to determine the extent of Syria's nuclear weapons development efforts. Based on IAEA reports, Syria is believed to possess up to 50 tons of natural uranium, enough material for three to five bombs once the enrichment procedure is completed. To that end, an enrichment capability is believed to have been built by end-CY2016 at a nuclear facility near Qusayr north of Damascus, or at another nuclear facility just outside Damascus near the border with Lebanon.

PAKISTAN & INDIA: Both countries do not participate in Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) nor the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). These two countries remained in competition with one another in the development of new nuclear weapons throughout President Obama's two terms in office.

ISRAEL: Israel is not a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). In response to a perceived nuclear threat from Iran, Israel is believed, according to open source materials, to possess weapons-grade plutonium sufficient to produce about 200 nuclear weapons. The development of new/updated nuclear capabilities continued unabated during President Obama's two terms in office at Israel's Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center near Dimona.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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UN-14
The Promise: "...will lead a global effort to negotiate a verifiable treaty ending the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes."
When/Where: "Arms Control Today" 2008 Presidential Q&A: President-elect Barack Obama (pp. 31-36)
Source: https://www.jstor.org/stable/i23626844
Status:The United Nations recognized the need to control fissile materials as early as CY1957, so the need to establish a "verifiable treaty" was nothing new.

Candidate Obama promised to "lead" the world in negotiating a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT), cutting off future production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. Before him, so did President Bill Clinton who tried in 1993, and President George W. Bush who tried in 2006.

On 04/05/09 in Prague, President Obama proposed to negotiate "a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons," on the premise that verification of an FMCT was both desirable and do-able.

After eight years, by end-CY2016, the Obama Administration had accomplished little else than to formulate a proposal at the 03/16 CD to establish a working group to negotiate an FMCT, reminiscent of a similar proposal made at the CD on 08/11/98.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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UN-15
The Promise: "...will propose a new multilateral initiative to control existing fissile materials, under which nations will provide regular declarations of their fissile material holdings, secure their materials to the highest international standards of physical protection, declare increasing amounts of material as excess to defense needs and transform such excess materials to forms no longer useable in nuclear weapons as soon as practicable."
When/Where: "Arms Control Today" 2008 Presidential Q&A: President-elect Barack Obama (pp. 31-36)
Source: https://www.jstor.org/stable/i23626844
Status:This promise is not to be confused with Promise UN-14, which pertains to the production of fissile materials. This promise addresses the control of existing fissile materials.

The 2010 Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington, D.C. on 04/12-13/10 and attended by 47 nations/ international entities, focused on how to better safeguard existing fissile materials, specifically weapons grade plutonium and uranium. The Review Conference Action Plan included language on the importance of transparency and verification regarding fissile material (Actions 19 & 21). However, the Summit ended with a non-binding communique that did not specifically address the actions that need to be taken to control existing fissile materials. Rather, broad statements were included in the communique such as "endeavor to fully implement all existing nuclear security commitments" and "support the implementation of strong nuclear security practices."

Similarly, the communique issued at the end of the 03/26-27/12 Nuclear Security Summit in Soeul, Korea was not specific about any real progress made by the participating nations other than "to make every possible effort to schieve further progress" in defined areas. The word "fissile" does not even appear in that communique.

As late as 03/16, senators from President Obama's own party begged him in writing to pursue goals such as "ensuring the security of fissile, radiological, and other nuclear materials..."

By end-CY2016, there were approximately 2,000 metric tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and Plutonium 239 (Pu) in the world. There remained two primary impediments to effective verification, control and disposal of these fissile materials:
- questionable accuracy of knowledge about holdings of fissile materials and past production, given reportedly lost or incomplete records, and
- limited access to fissile materials in active military use due to the classified nature of individual nation military environments.

Thus, the international control of existing fissile materials was no better after President Obama's eight years in office than it was prior to CY2009.

This promise was not fulfilled.
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United Nations GPA0.33