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Trump Debuts at UN, Calls for Administrative Overhaul of World Body

By Margaret Besheer September 18, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump says he long ago recognized the promise of the United Nations when he chose a spot across the street to build a residential tower.

"I actually saw great potential right across the street, to be honest with you," Trump told leaders gathered to support overhauling the U.N. system.

"It was only for the reason that the United Nations was here that it turned out to be such a successful project," he said referencing his Trump World Tower, which sits across from the U.N. complex.

The American president made his U.N. debut Monday, speaking at a U.S.-hosted meeting on reforming how the world body is managed, which was held on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly.

"We encourage the secretary-general to fully use his authority to cut through bureaucracy, reform outdated systems, and make firm decisions to advance the U.N.'s core mission," Trump said. He added that the focus should be more on results than process.

The United Nations, with its multibillion-dollar annual budget, numerous peacekeeping missions and bloated staff, has been a target of Trump's criticism for years.

"To honor the people of our nations, we must ensure that no one and no member state shoulders a disproportionate share of the burden, and that's militarily or financially," the president added.

US contribution

The United States is the U.N.'s largest single donor, contributing more than $600 million last year to the regular budget of more than $2.5 billion. Washington also contributes more than $2 billion annually to support U.N. peacekeeping missions, and hundreds of millions more to vital programs, including the U.N. Children's Fund and the World Food Program.

But under the Trump administration, many programs have come under funding threat. In April, the administration announced it would slash $75 million to the U.N. Population Fund, which provides health care to vulnerable women and girls. The administration has also held a review of each U.N. peacekeeping mission and compromised on an overall cut to the $8 billion annual budget of around a half a billion dollars.

Secretary-General António Guterres made streamlining U.N. bureaucracy one of his campaign pledges.

"Fragmented structures, Byzantine procedures, endless red tape," is what Guterres said keeps him awake at night during Monday's U.N. reform meeting. "To serve the people we support and the people who support us, we must be nimble and effective, flexible and efficient," the secretary-general added.

The United States asked countries to sign onto a 10-point plan to enhance the U.N.'s efficiency and effectiveness to gain entry to the Trump meeting. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said 128 countries had endorsed it, and encouraged the rest to do so.

On Tuesday, President Trump will address at the annual General Assembly debate, where leaders will be anxious to hear his perspective on a range of issues, including North Korea's nuclear threat, the war in Syria, counter-terrorism, and whether the United States will remain in important multilateral agreements such as the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord.

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