António Guterres takes the reins of the United Nations on New Year’s Day, promising to be a “bridge-builder” but facing an antagonistic incoming U.S. administration led by Donald Trump who thinks the world body’s 193 member states do nothing except talk and have a good time.
The former Portuguese prime minister and U.N. refugee chief told reporters after being sworn in as secretary-general on Dec. 12 that he will engage all governments – “and, of course, also with the next government of the United States” – and show his willingness to cooperate on “the enormous challenges that we’ll be facing together.”
But Trump has shown little interest in multilateralism, which Guterres says is “the cornerstone” of the United Nations, and great attachment to the Republicans’ “America First” agenda.
So as Guterres begins his five-year term facing conflicts from Syria and Yemen to South Sudan and Libya and global crises from terrorism to climate change, U.S. support for the United Nations remains a question mark.
And it matters because the U.S. is a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council and pays 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular budget and 25 percent of its peacekeeping budget.
Immediately after the United States allowed the Security Council to condemn Israeli settlements in the West Bank on Dec. 23 in a stunning rupture with past practice, Trump warned in a tweet: “As to the U.N., things will be different after Jan. 20th,” the day he takes office.
Trump followed up three days later…
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