Do We Already Have a Secretary of Humanity?

This past January, I wrote a post asking whether perhaps it was time for the creation of the position of Secretary of Humanity. This question stemmed from my reading of “The Descent” by Gina Berriault. Out of that post came a lively discussion of who might be a good candidate for this position. Names such as Peter Singer and John Prendergast were thrown about as those who had great potential. While I know he would never accept the position, I personally think Nicholas Kristof expresses the sort of worldview illustrative of what the heart of such a position ought to be. 

As I have continued to ponder this question, however, it occurred to me that such a position might actually already exist. It has come to my attention that Susan Rice is perhaps not simply our Ambassador to the United Nations, but in reality does actually serve as our Secretary of Humanity. With a passion for human rights, Rice has long been a proponent for humanitarian intervention and civilian protection. Though she has taken heat for this stance recently (unwarranted I would argue), she remains commited to the idea of humanity over politics. She has been a continued advocate for the people of Darfur, and has used her position to encourage the US government to stand on the side of humanity.

Under previous administrations, the US Ambassador to the UN had little power. Additionally, it has sometimes been used as a political maneuver of sorts, taking the opportunity to bestow the position in a way that is beneficial to the administration, as opposed to focused on the importance of international cooperation. However, under the Obama Administration, this position has been upgraded to cabinet level (similar to Berriault’s book). All of a sudden, what was simply a “feather in your cap” position, has real influence and real responsibility. The appointment of Susan Rice to this post only further emphasizes the importance now placed on it.

This realization has left me with a few questions...

First, if the post of US Ambassador to the United Nations transforms into a version of a Secretary of Humanity, what does that say about the changing ideology of the US? Does it signal a move towards a more cosmopolitan ideal?

Second, what is the permanence of the promotion of this position to cabinet level? What happens when a new administration takes office? Is this simply a fleeting opportunity under a president who see's value in the United Nations?

Peace, United Nations, Susan Rice

Corrie Hulse

Corrie is The Mantle's Managing Editor. You can email her at corrie [at] themantle.net.

Formerly The Mantle's International Affairs Editor, Corrie specializes in matters of civilian protection and human security - specifically the Responsibility to Protect - her writing tackles the complicated intersection of politics and humanity.

Follow her on Twitter @corrie_hulse