Trump and the United Nations: Reform or Die?

    Zalmay Khalilzad

    Politics, North America

    U.S. President Trump waves as he arrives at Morristown municipal airport for a weekend at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster ahead of next week's United Nations General Assembly

    President Trump is taking on a tough but necessary task at the UN.

    President Donald Trump will be hosting a meeting on Monday in New York on reforming the United Nations. With that, the president is taking on a very tough but very necessary task. The institution is in serious need of reform but achieving that will be very difficult. Yet, unless it reforms substantially, the UN faces the prospect of becoming less relevant and having its very mission and existence questioned.

    Promoting security, human rights, humanitarian assistance and sustainable development are the primary responsibility of the individual member states, and assisting members in these four areas is the core mission of the UN—including peacekeeping, assisting refugees, facilitating international agreements on important issues and prodding countries to carry out their obligation under international law. However, the UN apparatus has become unwieldy, bureaucratically overburdened, inefficient, ineffective and fiscally irresponsible. These problems need to fixed.

    Since becoming Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has emphasized reform—his focus of effort and the proposals he has developed do not pertain to adjusting the organization’s mission. Rather, they focus solely on how it carries its responsibilities, with the goal of increasing the organization’s capacity to implements its current mission more effectively by becoming more integrated, more transparent and more accountable. The meeting is aimed at boosting his initiatives.

    The Trump/Guterres event will be well received and there will be many positive statements in support of reform. However, the actual implementation of the reforms will face serious challenges.

    A key challenge is disagreement among member states on what needs to be done. When it comes to what reform actually means, different countries and voting blocs have varying priorities. The United States and its allies want the United Nations to take greater initiative in reforming management to increase transparency, accountability, effectiveness and efficiency. Rising powers are eager to join the Security Council as permanent members, but are unwilling to embrace the management reforms necessary to reduce waste and increase efficiency and effectiveness, because those moves are unpopular with the developing countries whose votes they will need to achieve their Security Council aspiration.

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    The National Interest

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