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Trump on the UN: ‘I Saw Great Potential Right Across the Street’

Source: | Wednesday, September 20, 2017

In a much-anticipated gathering, the United States led a high-level meeting on United Nations reform on Sept. 18, with President Donald Trump and UN Secretary-General António Guterres speaking to the assembled world leaders. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, also spoke briefly; in Trump’s entourage was his chief of staff, John Kelly, and H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser.

“I actually saw great potential right across the street, to be honest with you, and it was only for the reason that the United Nations was here that that turned out to be such a successful project,” Trump began, referring to the location of a Trump commercial edifice across the street from the world body.

Trump noted changes that Guterres has said will be forthcoming at the UN and that the UN could regain the world’s trust by reforming.

“We encourage all members states to look at ways to take bold stands at the United Nations, with an eye toward changing ‘business as usual’ and not being beholden to ways of the past,” said Trump at the Monday morning meeting, part of the opening days of the 72nd session of the General Assembly this year.

Those attending the meeting were countries that have agreed to sign a declaration of support for UN reform. They were asked by the US to wear a pin, provided by the US, to the session. As of Sept. 18, 128 nations had signed the declaration, which Haley said gave momentum to Guterres’s reform efforts. (The UN has 193 member nations; the latest nation to sign up, it appears, was France.)

Trump expressed support for Guterres’s reform agenda, which the US pressured him to take up by emphasizing his executive powers, much to the consternation of some member states, who feel that the US is really leading the agenda.

“We pledge to be partners in your work,” Trump said. “And I am confident that if we work together, and champion truly bold reforms, the United Nations will emerge as a stronger, more effective, more just and greater force for peace and harmony in the world.”

Trump was clear, however, that he expected the UN to provide a return on the investment by the US to the UN, a recurring theme for the Trump administration, even though the “investment” in the UN amounts to less than 1 percent of America’s foreign aid budget.

What is meant by “return” on its investment is unclear as well, but Haley has said that American money saved from the UN would go to US military spending.

While the UN, Trump added, “on a regular budget has increased by 140 percent, and its staff has more than doubled since 2000, we are not seeing the results in line with this investment.”

What he didn’t mention was that the increase matches the US inflation rate over that time period and that the UN is also flung the world’s worst problems to solve, including famines, conflicts and humanitarian disasters.

The US is the largest donor to the UN, but the Trump administration has already made large cuts to the UN Population Fund and peacekeeping operations this year. The UN’s general biannual operating budget for 2016-2017 totals about $5.4 billion, of which the US provides 22 percent. Assessments are based on a country’s gross domestic product, or its national wealth.


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