If that wasn’t enough, Thomas-Greenfield will assume leadership of the UN Security Council on March 1 – the main decision-making body of the world organization – even before the boxes of his 40th-floor apartment overlooking the Hudson River were unpacked.
Thomas-Greenfield will be sworn in on Wednesday morning by Vice President Kamala Harris and will arrive in New York on February 25 to present his credentials to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
UN officials told POLITICO they hoped to see both a return of US leadership and a backlog of unpaid US dues under Thomas-Greenfield’s leadership.
President Joe Biden made an initial commitment of $ 4 billion Feb. 18 towards global immunization efforts such as COVAX and broader investments in health security.
After four years of Trump-induced whiplash and withdrawal from major United Nations entities – including the World Health Organization – the sense of relief around Turtle Bay is palpable, even with reduced attendance and a schedule of largely virtual meetings.
“It can only get better,” said an adviser to Guterres who was not authorized to speak to the media. “We are cautiously optimistic,” they added.
UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said Thomas-Greenfield and Guterres first worked together in 2005, when Thomas-Greenfield headed the State Department’s refugee and migration division and Guterres was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. “He has witnessed his efficiency and dedication in action,” said Dujarric.
Guterres’ top political priority for 2021 is climate change, and global progress now depends on ability of the Biden administration to go beyond its initial gesture of rallying to the Paris climate accord.
The current head of the Security Council, British Ambassador Barbara Woodward, told POLITICO that Britain is delighted to work with Thomas-Greenfield, “especially on common priorities such as climate and Covid-19” . Woodward succeeded in putting climate change on the Security Council’s agenda today, in a debate led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who also introduced the new Biden administration climate envoy, John Kerry.
China’s challenges are looming
Europe offers to serve as a bridge between the United States and China, said a European ambassador. “Guterres urged us to play the role of bridge builder. Unless we can get them to work together on climate and Covid, the UN agenda remains paralyzed, ”the ambassador said.
Thomas-Greenfield, a 35-year State Department veteran, faced tough questions during her Senate confirmation hearings about the extent to which she will confront Chinese authoritarianism and regional interference. She pledged during his confirmation hearing to promote American values of democracy, human rights and peace.
His deep experience across Africa will be needed, experts and advocates say, to advance relations with the United States and contain China’s growing influence in the United Nations system.
These tensions are likely to escalate in debates over fairness in the distribution of Covid vaccines. “We believe that Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s experience as former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs makes her extremely qualified to understand the magnitude of this crisis and the importance of American-African politics,” said said Sean Simons, spokesperson for the ONE anti-poverty campaign.
Thomas-Greenfield is the fifth woman in a row to be confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Five of the 15 Security Council ambassadors are women.
“A little less testosterone and a little more dialogue, patient listening and an ability to facilitate – these are undervalued qualities, especially when there is a lot of tension between some of the great players at the table,” Irish Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason told the Irish Times.