The critics argue that U.N. independence is the organization's Achilles' heel; an issue that has come to the foreground since Donald Trump took office as US president.
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Narration: The United Nations; an organization to deal with peace, security, development, human rights and humanitarian affairs. Whether, or to what extent, this international body has been a success story is an open question. The critics argue that U.N. independence is the organization's Achillies' heel; an issue that has come to the foreground since Donald Trump took office as the president of the United States of America. As the largest contributor to the U.N., the country pays 22 percent of the $5.4 billion core budget and 28.5 percent of the $7.9 billion peacekeeping budget. In May, Trump called the U.S. share of the U.N. budgets was "unfair", threatening to slash it. Soon came a desperate reaction from the spokesmen for the UN Secretary-General.
SOUNDBITE [English] Stephane Dujarric, SPOKESMAN, UN Secretary -General: “We're obviously studying the budget, going through some of the numbers. I think from where we stand, I think looking at the budget as it's proposed now would make it simply possible for the U.N. to continue all of its essential work advancing peace, development, human rights and humanitarian assistance around the world.”
Narration: Although Trump's bid highlighted the negative effects of the UN’s economic dependence on a single state, many began to scratch their head; what does the US actually stand to gain from such a move? A month earlier, during a lunch with U.N. Security Council ambassadors at the White House, Trump had voiced his main concerns; Syria and N. Korea.
SOUNDBITE [English] Donald Trump, US President: “I encourage the Security Council to come together and take action to counter all of these many threats on Syria. The Council failed again this month to respond to Syria's use of chemical weapons - a great disappointment. I was very disappointed by that. The status quo in North Korea is also unacceptable. And the council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”
Narration: Trump policy toward the world body was clear: You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. A few months later, in August, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a US-drafted resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea.
SOUNDBITE [English] Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N:“This resolution is the single largest economic sanctions package ever leveled against the North Korean regime. This is the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation.”
Narration: Since his election, Trump has sought to discredit the UN and questioned whether his country gets value for its money. According to media reports, Trump believes that the UN is ‘just a club for people to get together and talk and have a good time’. And some of his men add that the organization is contrary to democracy, liberty and above all Israel.
SOUNDBITE [English] Paul Ryan, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives: “and let me assure you right here and right now President`s Donald Trump commitment to Israel is sacrosanct, congress' commitment to Israel is sacrosanct.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Mike Pence, US Vice President: “Under president Trump, the US will no longer allow the UN be used as a forum for invective against Israel or the West.”
Narration: Although Trump claims he is going to bring peace back to the Middle East, he has shown no tolerance to any Palestinian role in the UN mechanism. In February this year, the United States objected to the appointment of a former Palestinian prime minister to lead the UN political mission in Libya, saying it was doing so to support its ally Israel.
In fact, a primary concern of the present US administration is what they call "the UN’s bias" in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The current US threats to cut its financial contributions to the UN must be seen to a great extent as a leverage to reshape UN policy on the issue. In the last month of 2016, when Barak Obama was still in the oval office, a Security Council vote declared Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal.
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Narration: As soon as Trump took office, the Washington Post ran the headline: 'Trump administration could cut funding to United States', adding the Trump administration is proposing a 40 percent reduction in voluntary U.S. support for the United Nations and an end to “wasteful and counterproductive” spending that does not serve U.S. interests. The proposal was in fact a strong reaction to the Security Council vote against the Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank. Over the past months, Trump has shown that he is hell-bent on supporting the Israeli regime, whatsoever. In a recent pro-Israeli move, the US has declared that it will withdraw from UNESCO at the end of next year to make a stand on what it said is anti-Israel bias at the U.N.’s educational, science and cultural organization.
SOUNDBITE [English] Chris Hegadorn, U.S. Charge D'affaires at UNESCO:“Unfortunately, this venue has become politicised, undermining the work of UNESCO across its mandate. It's become a venue for anti-Israel bias, and unfortunately we are taking the decision to withdraw from UNESCO at this time.”
Narration: The decision was made after UNESCO designated the old city of Hebron in the West Bank a Palestinian World Heritage site.
SOUNDBITE [English] Jad Tabet, Lebanese Architect and Representative to UNICCO: “Given all this, the committee should take it's responsibilities according to article 11 of the convention - inscribe Hebron Al-Khalil old city on the World Heritage List in danger, and publicize it immediately.”
Narration: In fact, as Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, said indirectly, Israel is sacrosanct in the Trump administration.
SOUNDBITE [English] Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO: “When the rise of violent extremism and terrorism calls for new long-term responses for peace and security to counter racism and anti-Semitism, to fight ignorance and discrimination. At the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education, in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred, it is deeply regrettable that US should withdraw from the United Nations agency leading these issues. At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the US to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting cultures under attack.”
Narration: On the other hand, regardless of some rather insignificant moves to support Palestine, the UN has never taken any serious action to support the nation which has been under the Israeli occupation for decades. The organization is well aware that the US is its lifeline and that's why it tries not to rub it up the wrong way. And perhaps, that's the reason the Palestinian issue has never been highlighted in the UN General Assembly.
SOUNDBITE [English] Paul Larudee, Political Commentator: “By highlighting that after the General Assembly and not during it, it doesn't have to listen to a lot of debate and the criticism of the members of the General Assembly who are more supportive of Palestinians than you'll ever find in the Security Council. So by avoiding as much as possible a discussion of this issue in the General Assembly, the UN is essentially using a coward approach to all of this and bringing it up to make itself appear as a serious body when in fact it is speaking to an empty chamber rather than to the General Assembly.”
Narration: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas recently criticized the UN for failing to implement 12 Security Council resolutions since 1967 condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President: “Despite the adoption of 12 resolutions by the Security Council condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories since 1967, none of these resolutions were implemented. Thus encouraging Israel to continue its plans for the seizure of more Palestinian land in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, with impunity.”
Narration: As far as a big international organization like the UN with 193 state members is so dependent on a single state, namely the US, justice and other universal values should be sought elsewhere.