As the international community strives to coordinate the efforts of all parties to fight the COVID-19 pandemic through the United Nations and other relevant agencies, and has devoted itself to reviving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United States has still been narrowly focused on dominating the U.N. and even using the U.N. system to attack countries that it regards as “rivals.”
This can be seen through the remarks made by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, on Sept. 10. In a video conversation with U.S. Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Craft stated that the United Nations system, especially the United Nations Secretariat, is a “battlefield”* that the U.S. must win. She stated that in order to suppress China’s influence on the United Nations, it is necessary to ensure that more Americans and like-minded countries enter the U.N. system, and the number of Americans in the U.N. Secretariat is “unbalanced.”* She indicated that she would take every opportunity to attack China through the U.N. Security Council, regardless of the issue at hand.
Craft’s remarks show that the U.S. government regards the U.N. as its own personal political tool, which once again reflects the Trump administration’s negative position on international organizations and multilateralism. With regard to this, we should consider three aspects: How should the U.N. be reformed? What is the impact of the destructive actions of the U.s. on the U.N.? What kind of U.S.–China relationship should be established within the U.N.?
First, the U.N. belongs to the people of the world, and is not the U.S.’ private “tool.” The year 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the U.N. Seventy-five years ago, when the world’s antifascist war had just ended, countries around the world joined hands in creating an international order with the United Nations based on the fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter. Under the leadership of the U.N., the international community has made unprecedented progress in peace, development, human rights and other areas. For this reason, every country should cherish and protect its right to participate in the U.N.
Craft declared injustice in the “unbalanced” number of Americans and “like-minded countries” in the U.N., meaning that the number of staff members from China and other developing countries is too large. What we need to ask here is: to developing nations, including China, are there too many or too few staff members from developing nations in the U.N.?
As of Dec. 31, 2019, Chinese personnel only accounts for 1.17% of the U.N. system, which is not only lower than the U.S.’ 4.79%, but also far lower than the average of the G-7 countries, according to data released by the U.N. System Chief Executives Board for Coordination. Except for a few countries at the center of peacekeeping missions such as Sudan and Congo, most developing countries have a severe lack of representation in the U.N. The U.N. indeed needs reform, but it should regard multiculturalism and the increased representation of developing countries as its main direction. It should not be like Craft described — expanding the U.S. and Western countries’ absolute advantage in the U.N.
Second, the Trump administration stands against every other nation and is the most destructive force against multilateralism. The modern world is facing increasingly severe global challenges such as climate change, food security and the spread of infectious diseases, all of which urgently require the coordination of the international community. However, just as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, when the world needs multilateral support most, multilateralism has taken a serious hit. The Trump administration has pursued a narrow range of interests, and has taken a “you’re either with us, or against us” policy against multilateral organizations. Since 2017, the U.S. has terminated or substantially reduced its funding to the U.N. Refugee Relief and Works Agency, the U.N. Population Fund, the Green Climate Fund and the Office of Counter-Terrorism, as well as other institutions. It has also withdrawn from a number of multilateral institutions and agreements, such as UNESCO, the Human Rights Council, the World Health Organization, the Paris Agreement, the Global Migration Compact and the Iran Nuclear Agreement. In addition, the U.S. has obstructed the appointment of new Appellate Body members of the World Trade Organization, causing stagnation in the process.
This rejection of multilateralism and belittling of international organizations’ policies has severely obstructed the use of multilateral organizations and weakened the international community’s ability and willpower to fight global crises through international cooperation. What the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. should be doing is reflecting on the actions of the U.S. under the “America First” policy and how much harm it has done to the whole world.
To reiterate, the Trump administration’s defamation and suppression of China has severely impacted the political atmosphere of the U.N. The U.S. and China are both permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, thus maintaining healthy and stable U.S.–China relations is of the utmost importance to the United Nations. In recent years, however, the Trump administration has repeatedly exaggerated the strategic competition among world powers and has made multilateral areas a priority in suppressing China and other emerging nations. In the United Nations, the U.S. has taken the lead in resisting China’s concept of win-win cooperation and has attacked China’s necessary actions to protect its national security and social stability. The international community has already expressed concern and dissatisfaction about this. Craft using every opportunity to attack China is an irresponsible practice that is bound to aggravate confrontation within the U.N., and may even trap the U.N. in a difficult situation.
The U.N. is not the U.S.’ private political tool. The U.S. government cannot ignore the international community’s pursuit of world peace, stability and development. On the 75th anniversary of the founding of the U.N., the international community should unite and take a clear stance against the unilateralism and power politics of the U.S. and jointly safeguard the multilateral international order.
The author is an associate research fellow at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.
*Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, the quoted remarks could not be independently sourced.