Robert C. Orr, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning

On January 28, 2014, Roosevelt House welcomed Robert C. Orr, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Public Planning. Jonathan gave introductory remarks and then sat down with Secretary Orr to discuss current efforts to reach global agreement on critical issues including international development, climate change, global health and security and humanitarian crises in the Middle East and Africa. Video of the event can be viewed here.

Robert C. Orr

January 28, 2014

Good evening.  I am Jonathan Fanton, Interim Director of Roosevelt House, and it is my pleasure to welcome you to an event which exemplifies the mission of Roosevelt House: bringing policy makers together with students, faculty and the general public to explore the most pressing issues of the day.  Our guest, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Planning, Robert Orr, will preview issues central to the work of the U.N. in the year ahead.  He is one of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s closest advisors, the person charged with shaping the priorities for the U.N. and its leadership.

I came to know Bob Orr when I was President of the MacArthur Foundation and we worked together on issues like reducing dangers from biological and chemical weapons, protecting the environment, advancing human rights and framing the new norm of the Responsibility to Protect.

I came to admire his vision of what the U.N. can be at its best, his commitment to make the U.N. an effective force for advancing humankind’s noblest instincts and aspirations and his ability to get things done.  Widely respected and trusted by people and countries who do not trust each other, he is a human bridge of understanding, able to build coalitions that advance the Secretary-General’s goals.

He combines theory and practice as well as anyone I know.  With a Ph.D. and M.P.A. from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, he has led the Belfer Center of Science and International Affairs at Harvard, served as Director of the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, published extensively on post-conflict situations, including Winning the Peace: an American Strategy for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Keeping the Peace: Multidimensional U.N. Operations in Cambodia and El Salvador.

On the practice side, he has been the Director of the USUN Washington office and Director of Global and Multilateral Affairs at the National Security Council.  He has been the Secretary-General’s key advisor on counter terrorism strategy, climate change, food security, global health, reducing the dangers of WMD and more.

He has worked closely with Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon to design and strengthen major U.N. institutions including the Peace Building Commission, the Human Rights Council, the U.N. Counter Terrorism Center and the Global Forum on Migration and Development.

He created and managed the Every Woman Every Child Initiative which brought together over 260 government, corporate, philanthropic and civil society partners and raised over $10 billion.  He did the same for Sustainable Energy for All, mobilizing $60 billion for work in sixty countries.

In a recent speech, the Secretary had this to say about the value of these partnerships:

“Harnessing the strength of the private sector, civil society, and philanthropic organizations will help the UN deliver on governments’ priorities and mandates on development, humanitarian action and countries emerging from conflict. It will also ensure the UN system itself remains relevant at a time in which business, philanthropy and civil society are increasingly active and resourceful in providing global public goods.”

It is especially meaningful to have a senior leader of the U.N. in Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s home.  Their leadership in creating the U.N. grew from conversations that occurred between these walls.  Hear FDR’s words to the Bretton Woods conference two months before he died.

“It is my purpose in this message to indicate the importance of… international organizations in our plans for a peaceful and prosperous world.  If we are to measure up to the task of peace with the same stature as we have measured up to the task of war, we must see that the institutions of peace rest firmly on the solid foundations of international political and economic cooperation… for a peace that will endure, we need the partnership of the United Nations.”

FDR would be pleased that we are talking about the role of the UN in fostering effective partnerships in their home this evening.

After his presentation, Secretary Orr will welcome your questions.

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Robert Orr.