UNITED NATIONS, Jan 18 2018 (IPS) – The continued erratic and outrageous comments by President Donald Trump – and his attempts to undermine the United Nations – are threatening to cause irreparable damage to the world body.
The signs are ominous: the US withdrawal from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the threats against member states voting for anti-Israeli resolutions; slashing funds to a 69-year-old UN agency for Palestinian refugees; withdrawal from the 2016 Paris climate change agreement; threats to “totally destroy” a UN member state, North Korea; a US-inspired $285 million reduction in the UN’s regular budget for 2018-2019, and the insidious attempts to wreck the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement.
And more recently, Trump triggered a global backlash when he singled out Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” eliciting protests from the 55-member African Union (AU).
Trump has also come under fire for his insulting statements that “all Haitians have AIDS” and Nigerians who visit the US “would never go back to their huts.”
But running notoriously true to form, he has reversed himself again and again — and denied making any of these statements, despite credible evidence.
In its editorial last week, the New York Times rightly declared that Trump “is not just racist, ignorant, incompetent and undignified. He’s also a liar.”
That’s quite a mouthful to characterize the supreme leader of the free world: a crown which he may lose, paradoxically, to President Xi Jinping of totalitarian China.
James A. Paul, Executive Director of Global Policy Forum (1993-2012), an NGO monitoring the work of the United Nations, told IPS the Trump administration poses a grave threat to the future of the UN and to the development of international cooperation more generally.
“But we have to ask: how much does the present differ from the past and how close are we to a collapse of the UN under assault from Washington?.”
Every day, there appears new confirmation of the problem, whether it is President Trump’s crude statements about world leaders, his harsh commentary and stereotypical remarks about other countries and peoples, his upsetting of carefully-constructed international agreements, and his utter disregard for the tactfulness of diplomacy, said Paul.
“In terms of the UN as an institution, we see such blows as the US withdrawal from the Climate Change Agreement, looming US defunding of the UN’s Palestinian refugee aid, and US-led slashing of the regular UN budget.”
Crude blackmailing to enforce favorable votes in UN bodies, said Paul, has also been practiced by Washington more than ever.
“At the same time, there is an increasingly-harsh US government rhetoric about the UN as a useless bureaucracy, undeserving of respect and support.”
Paul said “right-wing nationalism has arisen in many lands in recent years, of course, and we should remember that the US has often in the past acted towards the UN and the international community with condescension and domination”.
Recent developments, he argued, are therefore not so much unique as they are extreme, posing deeper-than-ever threats to the viability of the UN in an extremely unstable and dangerous time.
Meanwhile, the US has already announced it will cut about $65 million in funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which providence sustenance to millions of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon.
Responding to a question at a press conference January 16, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “very concerned” about the US funding cuts.
“I strongly hope that, in the end, it will be possible for the United States to maintain the funding of UNRWA, in which the US has a very important share.”