Campaign Promises

Other/Miscellaneous -> United Nations -> Convention Participation

ItemUnited Nations
Convention ParticipationGrade
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.
Status:President Obama addressed the UNFCC at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (COP15), 12/18/09. However, in a new draft 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. This 're-engagement' was an abject failure and a huge national embarrassment.

The CY2011 Conference on Climate Change was held in Durban, South Africa from 11/28/11 to 12/09/11. As in Copenhagan, no binding results were expected and none were delivered except for a 5-year extension of the Kyoto Protocol and the creation of a "Green Climate Fund" to help poorer countries address climate issues. In fact the USA almost derailed this conference by refusing to negotiate legally binding carbon emissions reductions by CY2015 unless China and India were on board with this timetable.

UN member nations and other interested organizations have little expection for climate change mitigation leadership from the U.S., often referring to the USA as a major obstacle to progress on this matter.

A U.S.-Finnish climate study published in 07/11 reported that the extent of global warming during the period CY1998-CY2008 was less than publicized by other studies. In fact, despite an increase in carbon dioxide emissions during that period, global temperatures actually dropped slightly, a condition attributed to China's increased use of coal-fired power plants that release sun-blocking sulfates.

The relevancy of the UNFCC wwa further questioned in the aftermath of the resignation of Nobel Prize Laureate Dr. Ivar Giaever from the American Physical Society (APS) on 09/13/11 because of the APS position that global warning is, in fact, occuring and that the APS position is "incontrovertible." Dr. Giaever disagreed with the APS position.

Unsuccessful/ineffective re-engagement with the UNFCC leading to further tarnishment of international appreciation for U.S. leadership and influence on climate matters indicates to the average U.S. citizen that this promise has not been fulfilled.
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....He will urge the U.S. Senate to ratify the Convention expeditiously."
When/Where: Obama-Biden Plan: "Empower Americans with Disabilities," dated 09/06/08.
Status:The USA became the 141st signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) on 07/30/09. In doing so, the first part of this promise was fulfilled. Three steps remain: (1) Protocol Signature, (2) Convention Ratification, and (3) Protocol Ratification.

Nearly three years later, on 05/18/12, the Senate received the CRPD for ratification, indicating that President Obama had not made it a priority to seek Senate ratification "expeditiously" as promised during his election campaign.

The underlying cause for the non-submission of the treaty to the Senate was the prevailing sentiment that its ratification would not advance U.S. interests either nationally or internationally. Further, existing U.S. laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990, the Fair Housing Act as amended in 1998 and other laws were viewed as already protecting U.S. citizens with disabilities from discrimination.

In the opinion of some U.S. lawmakers at the time, joining the CRPD would force the U.S. Government to defer to the terms of that treaty in contravention of existing state and federal laws put in place to protect the rights of all disabled Americans.

Nonetheless, ratification of the CRPD enjoys some bipartisan support in the Senate because it is now believed that this treaty upholds American values of non-discrimination and protects persons with disabilities.

On 07/26/12, the CRPD was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (13 for, 6 against), a move that cleared it for a full Senate ratification vote before the 112th Congress expired at the end of CY2012. On 12/04/12, however, the Senate failed to obtain 66 votes required for ratification of the CRPD.

This promise has not been fulfilled.
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.
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.

Since its inception in CY2009, the MEF has met 14 times as of 09/12. Several of the meetings have held in the USA, as well as in France, Belgium, Mexico, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

Promise fulfilled.
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 12/03/07.
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.

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 strengthens the moratorium on commercial whaling and the report indicates 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 is 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.

Meanwhile, Japan, Iceland and Norway continued using loopholes in the moratorium to set their own quotas. They have reportedly caught more than 30K whales since the mid-1980s.

On 07/20/11, former Commerce Secretary and current U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke recommended that sanctions be levied against Iceland based on his belief that Iceland is in violation of the Pelly Amendment to the "Fishermen's Protective Act of 1967." His letter to President Obama states 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. Other countries continued the whaling "business as usual."

On 03/31/14, the International Court of Justice 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 were excessive to its stated "research" requirements. Norway and Iceland continue their whaling activities with impunity.

As of mid-CY2014, only initial progress has been made toward promise fulfillment.
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.
Status:This promise is closely related to Promise #ST-47 which specifically addresses foreign aid to the Americas. This promise is global in nature and is therefore classified under United Nations.

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).

The UN MDG program is not to be confused with the efforts of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent aid organization funded by the State Department that provides well-performing countries with large-scale grants to fund country-led solutions for reducing poverty through sustainable economic growth.

The MDGs were the focus of a UN anti-poverty summit on 09/20-22/10. During that summit, the UN's major complaint was that countries able to contribute to meeting the MDGs were not following up with the necessary financial resources. Only a few European countries had reached the goal of allocating 0.7% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) toward MDGs. The U.S. was contributing about 0.2% of its GDP to the MDG program.

At CY2005 cost levels, Oxfam International (a confederation of 14 organizations working in 99 countries to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice) estimated that $151B would have ended all extreme poverty in the world. Since then, the World Bank estimated that $26B was needed in CY2010 to reach the CY2015 goals.

During the 09/10 summit, the USA promoted broad-based economic growth by helping impoverished countries formulate and implement pro-growth policies, promote trade, invest in infrastructure, and stimulate entrepreneurship. The Obama Administration's plan, released on 07/30/10, is entitled "Celebrate, Innovate and Sustain: Toward 2015 and Beyond."

In an address to the United Nations MDG Review Summit on 09/22/10, President Obama confirmed the adoption of 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 2012" indicates that the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 a day fell from 47% in CY1990 to 24% in CY2008, a reduction from over 2B people to less than 1.4B. Its estimate indicated that the global poverty rate in CY2010 fell to less than half the CY1990 rate. If these statistics are confirmed in CY2013, this means that the goal will have been met well ahead of the targeted CY2015.

This promise to make the MDG "America's goals" has been fulfilled.