President Donald Trump, a Republican and lifelong businessman who criticized the United Nations as a candidate, has common ground with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who spent much of his political life in socialist politics.
Both are demanding reform to the international institution, and will take the lead Monday in a U.N. reform event.
“The president will highlight the U.N. reform event. We have got a massive reform package being led by the secretary-general that really streamlines not just the process but also the budget that goes forward and makes the U.N. much more effective,” U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters Friday.
On Tuesday, Trump will address the 72nd meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York for the first time in his presidency. He will tackle multiple global issues such as North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, the crisis in Syria, and the growing problems in Venezuela.
The reforms will focus on ensuring that other countries take a more equitable burden to ensure international security, to demand greater accountability of U.N. officials, and to reduce the budget by eliminating duplication.
“We basically have the president headlining a U.N. reform effort which would really support the secretary-general, but the impressive part is we ask other countries to sign on to their support for reform and 120 countries have signed on and will be in attendance. That’s a miraculous number,” Haley said.
As a candidate, and even as president-elect, Trump was highly critical of the world body.
However, that can change, Haley said, noting a conversation when she first took the position as U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
“When I originally spoke with the president, what I said is we’ll see what we can make of it. We’re creating an opportunity. We’re making the most of it,” Haley said. “We’re moving foreign policy. We’re changing the way peacekeeping is done. We’re really bringing up human rights and more importantly, what I appreciate is, they’ve stopped focusing on the commas and the periods and we’re actually acting. We’re actually seeing strong things happen.”
“So, the president has always believed there is great potential in the United Nations that I think the world is seeing,” she added. “It is actually changing and it is actually becoming more effective.”
The United States will cap its contributions to 25 percent of peacekeeping efforts, but the trick is getting other countries to contribute a greater share, said Brett Schaefer, a senior research fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
“There are areas of agreement” between Trump and Guterres, Schaefer told The Daily Signal. “They agree that the footprint should move away from Geneva and New York and out into the field, and to allow the secretary general to implement more of the reforms.”
Further, U.N. programs with similar missions frequently operate in the same country, but with separate staffs, separate cars and drivers, and outdated software. Reducing duplication could cut waste and inefficiencies, Schaefer said. An area where the United States has been stronger than Guterres is demanding greater whistleblower protections, Schaefer added.
Trump and Guterres would likely have some philosophical differences. Trump has pushed for “extreme vetting” to prevent entry into the United States from failed states in the Middle East, including Syria. By contrast, Guterres has been a staunch advocate for more countries to accept Syrian refugees.
Guterres is also the former prime minister of Portugal from 1995 through 2002, where he ran under the Socialist Party. He also presided over a group called Socialist International from 1999 through 2005. In contrast, Trump is a billionaire businessman who won by running in the center-right party in the United States.
Upon taking office on Jan. 1, Guterres called for changes.
It is important for us to be proud of what we do as the U.N., to recognize our achievements … But we also need to be able to recognize our shortcomings, to recognize our failures, to recognize situations in which we are not able to deliver as we should for the people we care for.
The three goals will be to promote peace, promote prosperity, and uphold sovereignty and accountability, White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters Friday.
“The United Nations of course holds tremendous potential to realize its founding ideas, but only if it’s run more efficiently and effectively,” McMaster said.