New UN leader must factor Trump into his plans

António Guterres took the oath of office this week to become the next secretary general of the United Nations amid a rise in nationalist movements around the world and what he called a loss of confidence in institutions, including the one he will take over in January.

The next United Nations leader would already have faced tough challenges: war, climate change, widening income inequality, record levels of global displacement. But the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States has changed the incoming secretary general’s approach to virtually every major crisis.

1.Even as he needs commitment from the United States, the single largest funder of the United Nations, Mr. Guterres will be under pressure to call out American leaders if they flout the basic values of the United Nations Charter.
2.Guterres has to ensure that Mr. Trump does not severely cut United States funding for the United Nations or dismiss the institution altogether as a platform for solving global problems.
3.A third conundrum is Syria, which Mr. Guterres staked out as his top priority when he campaigned for the job. Mr. Trump has suggested he wants to join Russia in routing the Islamic State from Syria, even if that approach means keeping the country’s strongman, Bashar al-Assad, in power. If he goes along, Mr. Guterres, a canny, well-connected politician who has cast himself as a champion of human rights, will face the prospect of endorsing a leader accused of committing war crimes.

In his speech on Monday, he laid out his priorities while reassuring world powers he has their interests at heart. In a pitch to the incoming Republican administration, Mr. Guterres said he would make the United Nations more “nimble” and “efficient” and promised “management reform,” shorthand for cost cutting. There is widespread concern among United Nations diplomats that Mr. Trump, who has dismissed the value of global cooperation, at least on the campaign trail, could kneecap the organization.

Mr. Guterres, a former Socialist prime minister of Portugal and for 10 years the head of the United Nations refugee agency, spent much of his speech discussing the importance of preventing conflict; diplomats have said in recent days that he is considering making that a top priority. He warned against using human rights “as a means to a political end” and spoke about the paradox of globalization.

 [New York Times]

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