Trump is precarious?
The UN System
The Trump effect on Peripheral bodies
Trump effect on the General Assembly
Trump effect on the Security Council
A catalyst for UN evolution?
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
The United Nations is notorious for its stringent modalities. Many critics argue that the UN is an inefficient, inflexible, costly and corrupt bureaucratic body that will be plagued with its short comings for as long as politics exist.
In 2016 the world experienced many unpredicted events, Brexit, the failed plebiscite in Colombia, impeachment of South Korean President inter alia. These events all seem connected by the populous retaliating against the elites, their failures or an outright loss of faith in institution.
The 2016 United States Presidential Elections were no different; shocking the world over. Bilateral relationships are projected to falter; Mexico for example has no intention of building its own prison, or strengthen; Russian leader Vladimir Putin has expressed his willingness to cooperate with the billionaire president elect. Multilateral agreements such as the TPP are set to crumble. The Human Rights of Women, Immigrants and detainees will no longer be staples of the leader of the free world, prompting other nations to follow suit of indifference. Will this tectonic shift in the hegemons domestic politics rattle the United Nations?
This paper will begin with a brief description of the US Election; expanding on why many fear the succeeding US incumbent and the influence that the US president has on foreign policy. Subsequently, a description of the UN system will give insight into its structure and debilities, each prong of the system will then be analysed in light of how its will be affected by the US 2016 Election. Will this event have any effect at all or will it be ‘business as usual’ in the realm of international affairs? Does it take a bull in a china shop to catalyse institutional UN reform?
Trump is precarious?
On January the 20th 2017, a real-estate Mogul and reality T.V celebrity with no prior political for foreign policy experience will be inaugurated as the next President of the United States of America. In an uncommon Electoral vote majority (Adams, 2016), Republican candidate Donald Trump, was victorious against Hilary Clinton, former Secretary of State. This unbelievable election has left the hegemon divided and uncertain of its future.
Shock waves have been reverberating globally, with Prime Ministers flying to New York with urgency to safeguard bilateral relationships with the President elect, far right xenophobic European presidential candidates applauding his success and allied nations’ Trade Ministers despising his protectionist threats. Trumps foreign policy related statements have been unprecedented, making pundits fret over his upcoming tenure. Nevertheless, beyond the outlandish ideas and brash exhibition, Trumps foreign policy is reminiscent of decades past; it’s a narrow, mercantilist, transactional foreign policy. This gives intuitive states traction to deduce his first strategies. Considering foreign policy is where Presidents have the freest hand, preparedness is of crucial importance for States as well as multilateral international organizations.
In relation to the Middle East, President Elect Trump reckons the US should ‘take the oil’. In Europe, he has stated his disregard for the NATO alliance due to member States lack of financial contribution; much to the content of the Russian Federation, that for the past 20 years has attempted to weaken NATO. Trump has stereotypically made sweeping generalities about Mexicans as rapists, criminals and drug dealers. To this ‘issue’ he proclaims the construction of a Wall, that Mexico will pay for. President Nieto, to this day, refutes this as a possibility whilst trying to quell escalation with his states primary trade partner. This development may create closer ties between Canada and Mexico, the former recently cancelling all visas to the latter. In regards to Nuclear Policy, Trump has suggested Japan and the Republic of Korea employ a self-protection policy against North Korea; signifying a reversal of the US Nuclear Umbrella that has inhibited nuclear proliferation. Promotion of nuclear arms in Asia could set the scene for nuclear war if Pyongyang feels in the least bit aggravated. China reacted composedly, realizing early on that the primary objective during a Trump-led US was to maintain bilateral relations. However, Trumps telephone call with Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-Wen, congratulating and acknowledging her presidency (Chang, 2016) made away with Beijing’s serenity. Trump implicitly recognized Taiwan’s status as a sovereign state, thereby undoing the decades old recognition of the ‘One China’ policy that has bolstered Sino-US relations. Its suspected that China retaliated by changing its previous position in the Security Council to join Russia in vetoing a US backed resolution calling for a seven day humanitarian cease fire in Aleppo, ultimately condemning besieged Syrian civilians (Lynch, Was China's Latest UN Veto payback for the Taiwan Call?, 2016).
In respects to Climate Change, Sustainable Development Goal number 13 under UN auspices, Trump refutes its existence, calling it a Chinese conspiracy theory to halter US production. This has materialized in Trump selecting Scott Pruitt (Davenport & Lipton, 2016), climate change denialist and close ally of the fossil fuel industry, as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Multilaterally, Trump has threatened to pull the US out of the historic Paris accord on Climate change, the worlds most comprehensive effort against climate change and a UN highlight under Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
Human Rights, a main focus in the preamble of the UN, has been disregarded by Trump with deplorable statements towards women, religious minorities, migrants and people with disabilities. A clear example of his disregard was his vow to restore waterboarding as a counterterrorism tool contradicting the International Convention on Torture.
Concerning the United Nations, optimists are expressing relief that Trump’s said nothing about dismantling the United Nations (Sengupta, 2016). The President therefore, has a degree of influence in the maintenance and functioning of the international organization. The former UN assistant to the Secretary General, expects not a complete dismantling but a throwback to the tensions between US and UN during the Bush Administration. On the other hand, many hypothesize that entrepreneurial focused Trump may find the UN useful as a deal-making tool. Another approach could simply be a scaling back of UN-US relations in general.
Like many of his comments, Trumps stance on the UN is difficult to ascertain. In 2005, he described himself as “a big fan” and said that “the concept of the United Nations and the fact that the United Nations is in New York is very important to [him] and very important to the world as far as [he] is concerned” (Sengupta, 2016). This positivity contradicts many of the promises of ‘making America, great again’ because its internationally focused. On the other hand, it could be a useful tool, as it has always been, to push the U.S. agenda world wide.
He may have voiced controversial opinions during the election, but as they were radical, they are inconsistent. In 2016, Trump flip-flopped on almost every issue (Mounk, 2016), from the welfare state, to civil rights, to nuclear proliferation and the use of US military power. He is no ordinary US president, and he must be taken seriously, though not literally (Kin, 2016).
Moreover, there are some dismissed truths that harness presidential power. Trump’s distressing discourse was aimed to gain the votes of irritated working class US citizens; however, those promises are much easier said than done. The US political system was designed to put the brakes on efforts to usher in rapid change (Brooks, 2016) through rigorous checks and balances. Trump will find, like every President before him, that campaign promises are not easy to implement. The Supreme court, Congress and even the Senate controlled White House will act as barriers impeding illogical policies, to some extent.
Kin is right, rather than worry about Trumps personal predilections or trying to predict the unpredictable, leaders around the world must focus on stabilizing the bilateral relationship. In the case of the UN, the Trump effect will be more complex, direct and difficult to mitigate if indeed his words turn into actions. Preparatory measures must be considered if Trump’s ideas of ‘making America (instead of the world) great again’ come into fruition because it has depended on US funding and diplomatic support since its inception. The US indeed has a prominent and embedded role, however morally questionable, within the UN System.
The UN System
The United Nations Organization was built on the foundations of its failed predecessor, the League of Nations which was established in 1919 by the Peace treat, post Great War with the purpose of preserving peace and security.
The League was in essence a last ditch European attempt to maintain its progressive approach and supremacy (N.Shaw, 2014). Its faults were many, including the absence of the United States and the Soviet Union. The nails in the coffin for the league were the invasions; Japan on China 1931; Italy’s attack on Ethiopia, Germany’s internal and external aggressions and the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939. From the ashes of World War II rose the United Nations Organisation in 1946. It was established in New York, which highlights the shift from European strong hold to New World rising power.
The charter was signed by 50 of the original members, on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco, at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference on International Organization. Enforcement was settled on 24 October 1945 after the ratification by the P5 members (The Charter of the United Nations). The preamble speaks to the purpose of the UN- peace and security- and the mutual agreement between Member States. The first section contains a general call for the maintenance of peace and international security and respect for human rights (The Charter of the United Nations). The second section of the preamble is a contractual styled declaration positing that the governments of the peoples of the United Nations have agreed to the Charter and recognizes itself as the first international document regarding human rights.
The UN has a core and a periphery which constitute the UN system (Missoni & Alesani, 2014). The Core is made up of six main organs- The General Assembly, The Security Council, The Economic and Social Security Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice and the Secretariat. The wider periphery includes more than 30 organizations- funds, programs and specialized agencies.