January 27, 2017 8:20 am JST

Uncertainty grips UN as US rethinks role

Funding, UN headquarters agreement, could face chopping block

ARIANA KING, Nikkei staff writer

UNITED NATIONS -- The future of the United Nations is growing hazy as signs point to a diminished U.S. presence in the international body under the new administration of President Donald Trump.

"We're in a period of uncertainty," Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the U.N. secretary-general, said at a daily news conference Thursday, in response to a question regarding proposals circulating within the U.S. government. Such proposals include one to cut U.N. funding and another to withdraw from the agreement that designates the U.S. as host country to the U.N. headquarters.

"The new [U.S.] permanent representative will arrive very shortly ... and we will work through all these issues," Dujarric said, also noting that the secretary-general is eager to start "good discussions" with incoming U.S. representatives. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to present her credentials to the secretary-general as new U.S. ambassador to the U.N. on Friday.

The U.S., the largest contributor to the United Nations, provides 22% of the organization's annual budget. A decision to reduce funding could be a serious cause for concern.

Though proposals to reduce U.N. spending are not new to Congress, a new alarm was raised when The New York Times reported Wednesday that President Trump may be set to sign an executive order cutting funding to the U.N. by 40%.

In an interview Tuesday on U.S. television, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said that financial support to the body and its work is one of the reasons the U.S. is a world leader.

Severing ties with the U.N. "would be very ill-advised from the standpoint of the security of the American people," she suggested.

Speaking to reporters ahead of a U.N. Security Council meeting Thursday morning, French Ambassador to the U.N. Francois Delattre suggested that the role of the organization is more important now than ever.

"Our main message to the American administration is 'please stay committed to world affairs, because we need America,'" Delattre said.

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