United Nations braces for fiery Trump speech

Big budget: The UN’s top expense is peacekeeping operations, which cost roughly £5 billion a year.

Do we still need a United Nations? As the UN General Assembly begins in New York City today, some are saying that the organisation is outdated, confusing and irrelevant.

“It’s going to be the will of the American people, not the will of the international community,” said Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations (UN), as more than 120 world leaders gathered in New York.

They are there for the UN’s biggest event of the year: its annual General Assembly.

Today all eyes will be on President Donald Trump’s opening speech, his second to the body. Last year, he aggressively promoted his “America First” agenda and threatened to wipe North Korea “off the map”.

Since then, relations with North Korea have improved, but Trump has continued his campaign against the UN, pulling the US out of the UN Human Right’s Council and UNESCO.

The organisation has come a long way since it was created to promote peace in the aftermath of the Second World War. At that time, 50 countries joined.

Now it has 193 members. Its annual budget is around $30 billion (£23 billion). And by 2030, it hopes to have ended poverty and gender inequality.

But the UN also receives much criticism. Its Security Council is accused of weakness. Its peacekeepers are blamed for failing to protect people.

Do we still need a UN?

United we stand

No, say some; the UN has become irrelevant. It was created to spread peace and prosperity, but the world feels more dangerous and unequal than ever. Just look at the war in Syria, or the genocide in Myanmar. For all its talk, the UN has very little action to show for it. It is time to admit that it has failed.

Don’t give up yet, argue others. The UN’s core idea — that countries should solve problems by talking, not fighting — is a good one. The UN helped to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty in just 20 years. And even if it does not meet its ambitious goals for 2030, it will still do an enormous amount of good while trying.

You Decide

  1. Has the UN failed?

Activities

  1. Trump is giving his second annual speech to the UN General Assembly tomorrow. Imagine you are his chief speechwriter and write the opening 300 words of his speech, addressing some of the world’s biggest problems.

Some People Say...

“More than ever before in human history, we share a common destiny.”

Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
More than 120 world leaders have traveled to New York City for the annual UN General Assembly. This time there are some notable absences, as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping — who is embroiled in a trade war with Trump — are not attending.
What do we not know?
We do not know what Trump plans to say in his speech tomorrow.

Word Watch

$30 billion
In 2016, the actual spend was $48 billion (£36.6 billion) according to official figures.
Security Council
There are five permanent members of the UN Security Council: the UK, France, China, Russia and the US.
Peacekeepers
UN soldiers and security forces. In the last few years, peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere have been accused of rape and child abuse.
Extreme poverty
The number of people on less than $1.25 a day was halved between 1990 and 2010.