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President Donald Trump backs UN plan to reform itself

President Trump speaks with U.S. Ambassador to the

President Trump speaks with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley before a meeting during the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017. Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

UNITED NATIONS — President Donald Trump on Monday said he supports the United Nation’s top administrator’s plan to reform the world body by cutting its bureaucracy and mismanagement to create a “stronger, more effective, more just and greater force for peace and harmony.”

Trump, in his first address as a head of state at the UN, delivered a short speech at an event he chaired on reforming the United Nations, a 72-year-old organization with about 76,000 employees working on five continents and island nations.

“In recent years, the United Nations has not reached its full potential because of bureaucracy and mismanagement,” Trump said on the eve of the General Debate, where he is expected to outline his vision for how the United States and UN member states should tackle the world’s most pressing problems.

“While the United Nations 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,” he said. “But I know that under the Secretary General, that’s changing and it’s changing fast. And we’ve seen it.”

Just how to streamline outdated procedures and make the UN a lighter, more effective organization has been a subject of discussion for many years, and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said during Trump’s appearance that he has offered several initiatives toward that goal.

“Fragmented structures,” Guterres said, listing the UN’s bureaucratic challenges, nearly echoing Trump. “Byzantine procedures. Endless red tape.”

But he said the UN had launched “bold” plans to upgrade the organization, including a strategy to eliminate sexual abuse and exploitation, achieve gender parity, protect whistleblowers and strengthen counterterrorism structures. He also vowed to improve the UN’s peace and security architecture, implement “sweeping management reform” by simplifying procedures and decentralizing decision-making for transparency and accountability.

“Together, we are making progress on a broad and bold reform agenda to strengthen the United Nations,” he said.

Trump praised Guterres for seeking reform.

“We seek a United Nations that regains the trust of the people around the world,” he said. “In order to achieve this, the United Nations must hold every level of management accountable, protect whistleblowers and focus on results rather than on process.”

Trump went a step further in reiterating a concern that the UN’s responsibilities should be better distributed across the 193 member states, saying “we must ensure that no one and no member state shoulders a disproportionate share of the burden, and that’s militarily or financially.”

And, a few months after the UN meeting, with some prodding from Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, implemented a nearly $600 million cut to the UN’s peacekeeping budget to $7.3 billion, Trump called for a system of checks and balances to hold missions accountable.

“We also ask that every peacekeeping mission have clearly defined goals and metrics for evaluating success,” he said. “They deserve to see the value in the United Nations, and it is our job to show it to them,” he said, referring to member states’ citizens.

Despite Trump’s harsh critiques of the United Nations in the past, he closed his speech on a hopeful note.

“Mr. Secretary General, the United States and the member states present today support this great reform vision,” he said. “We pledge to be partners in your work, 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.”

Haley noted that as many as 128 member states had already signed a declaration expressing their commitment to reforming the UN, providing key backing to Guterres’ efforts.

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