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What Trump’s Threat to Quit UN Portends for the Global Body

By Dominic Omolo | February 7th 2017
We are still at the inception of Donald Trump’s presidency. Already, his barrages of executive edicts have had resounding effects globally - evoking anger and disbelief among the global community.

 Yet, his actions are not a complete departure from what he promised or tweeted about during his campaign to occupy the most powerful presidential manor on the planet.

In January, a Republican House of Representative, Mike Rogers, quietly introduced a bill, which was passed on to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs entitled “American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017”.

The Bill seeks a complete US withdrawal from the UN, that the international body remove its headquarters from New York and that US cease all participation in the global body since it does not promote US interests – especially US support to Israel.

It is widely believed in Washington that this move had the blessings of the neophyte tenant at the White House.

Furthermore, it is also believed that among the Executive Orders yet to be signed by him include one that actualizes this dream.

The language used by Rogers was equally Trumpian: “The UN continues to prove it’s an inefficient bureaucracy and a complete waste of American tax dollars”.

Way back in December 2016, Trump had tweeted that the UN has “such great potential”, but it has become “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time. So sad!” Days later he warned: “As to the UN, things will be different after January 20th.”

Yet looking at it strategically, it would benefit the global body if the USA were to call it quits.

First, the UN would be forced to relocate its current headquarters from Manhattan to probably one of the satellite headquarters in other parts of the world (Geneva, Nairobi, or Vienna).

 The same would apply to other UN agencies and Programmes based in the US including UNICEF, IMF, the World Bank, OCHA, etc. Hosting a new HQ would bring new lease of life to the city eventually chosen.

Secondly, all American citizens working for the UN would have to be separated (UN terminology for termination of employment) as their country would no longer enjoy a Member State status and hence ineligible to have staff at the UN.

This means their positions at the UN will have to be taken by other countries – thus creating new opportunities especially for those countries already above their quotas.

Thirdly, the role of the UN Security Council and its veto power would drastically reduce if not snuffed altogether.

A new mechanism for conflict resolution at the global level would probably emerge, bringing into play new actors and possibly greater role for African countries who have since recently grumbled bitterly over their exclusion at the august Council.

Fourthly, since US is the largest bearer of the UN financial burdens (providing 22 percent of the UN budget and 28 percent of the peacekeeping budget), the remaining financially endowed member countries - particularly Norway, China, Japan, UK, etc - would have to dig deeper into their pockets to offset the financial hovel created by the American withdrawal.

Most effectively, UN would need to review its activities by merging some agencies to reduce duplication of work and redefine individual core activities.

In conclusion, Trump has an opportunity help the UN realize the “great potential” he saw in it, or sign the divorce papers to release America from the global body. One such opportunity is the Rome-based UN World Food Programme (WFP) where the Democratic-nominated Executive Director, Ms. Ertharin Cousin has decided to quit, thus paving the way for Trump to present a replacement to the UN Secretary-General.

The position has traditionally been reserved for Americans. Trump can thus use his appointee to realize this “great potential” he saw in the UN.
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