Countries are abandoning UN, its outgoing political chief warns

Countries are abandoning UN, its outgoing political chief warns

Increasing number of leaders questioning whether multilateralism correct way forward, Jeffrey Feltman says, referring to Trump

Jeffrey Feltman briefs journalists at the end of his tenure on March 29, 2018. (UN/Loey Felipe)
Jeffrey Feltman briefs journalists at the end of his tenure on March 29, 2018. (UN/Loey Felipe)

UNITED NATIONS — The UN’s outgoing political chief expressed concern Thursday in a parting message that the United Nations was losing support from a growing number of countries.

Jeffrey Feltman, an American who served as under-secretary-general for political affairs since 2012, said it was “quite worrying” that leaders were questioning the value of the United Nations.

“I do leave here concerned about making sure that we maintain, in addition to the excellent leadership we have… that we maintain member-state support,” said Feltman.

There are “an increasing number of leaders, increasing number of countries that are questioning whether the multinational system that this organization represents is the right way forward, is the answer,” he said.

In this file photo from February 24, 2017, former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

His remarks were directed in part at the United States where President Donald Trump has cut funding to the world body and his new national security adviser John Bolton has expressed skepticism about the UN’s work. Much of the US’s criticism of the UN has been directed at the body’s seeming bias against Israel.

Feltman described the United Nations as a “force multiplier” in addressing issues including terrorism and climate change that concern US national interests and those of other countries.

“We need to show that we can be effective,” he said in a farewell press conference.

Feltman, who oversaw UN efforts to end conflicts worldwide, said Syria “remains the most tragic example of the failures of the international community to address a peace-and-security, humanitarian, and human rights catastrophe.”

Now in its eighth year, the war in Syria has killed more than 350,000 people, with no breakthrough in sight for diplomatic efforts that have been undermined by divisions in the Security Council.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in December dispatched Feltman to North Korea to push for dialogue as fears of a nuclear war gripped the region.

It was the highest-level UN visit to Pyongyang in six years, a mission undertaken with Trump’s approval.

In this file photo taken on May 14, 2013, Rosemary DiCarlo, then US Deputy Permanent Representative to the United States, finishes her speech detailing American support for a UN resolution calling for a political transition in Syria in New York City. (AFP/JOHN MOORE)

Despite signs that the United States is opting for diplomacy on North Korea, Feltman said it was “important to manage expectations.”

“The issues are extremely complicated,” he warned, adding that summit meetings between North and South Korean leaders as well as between Trump and Kim Jong Un would be the “start of the process”.

Feltman will be replaced by another American, Rosemary DiCarlo, who becomes the first woman to hold the top post.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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