Editor’s Note: This opinion piece was written by Barbara Crossette of PassBlue and was originally published on November 26, 2019.
It did not take long after the 74th General Assembly session opened this fall for the Trump team to signal that its strategy in key United Nations meetings would be to act as uncooperative and obstructive as possible, especially on human-rights agendas.
The 2019-2020 UN year — September to September — is likely to be remembered as eventful. It includes the 25th anniversaries of two landmark international conferences that greatly advanced the rights of women, making those gains targets of Republican politicians in Washington, D.C. Plans are being made to celebrate the UN’s 75 birthday next autumn, with much uncertainty surrounding American financial and political commitments to the organization.
The Trump administration’s delegates to various meetings have now established a pattern of arriving or intervening late in deliberations, nongovernmental organization leaders and diplomats say. The American representatives are often chosen by the government based on their opposition to even the concept of reproductive rights for women, which they see as covers for abortion. The representatives have proved that they can disrupt and delay negotiations, and the US has also balked on child rights and LGBTQ issues at the UN.
Diplomats said that the Americans recently challenged European nations with last-minute “hostile amendments” to agreements during closed sessions of the General Assembly committee dealing with the rights of women, children and youth.
A diplomat told PassBlue that the US delegates, sometimes obviously inexperienced on issues and procedures at the UN, have acknowledged that they are taking directions from Washington. They circumvent the US mission to the UN, which has been weakened by the lack of an ambassador for nine months in 2019 as well as the departure of many other top officials to new jobs.