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'Mismanagement' keeps UN from reaching full potential, Trump says in debut speech

Jim Watson, AFP | US President Donald Trump speaks to the press on August 12.

US President Donald Trump made his debut speech at the United Nations on Monday when he addressed a US-sponsored event on reforming the 193-member organisation, which he sharply criticised while on the campaign trail.

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Trump said he was confident that working together on reform would make the UN a stronger and more effective force for peace. He said the world body should not feel beholden to methods of the past that are no longer working.

Trump cited "bureaucracy and mismanagement" as some of the systemic challenges holding the UN back.

"The United Nations was founded on truly noble goals," he said, adding that while progress has been made, "in recent years the United Nations has not reached its full potential, because of bureaucracy and mismanagement".

He said that while the United Nations' regular budget has increased by 140 percent and its staff has more than doubled since 2000, "we are not seeing the results in line with this investment".

He called on the institution to "focus on results", a call that was echoed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who said a reformed UN needs to focus "more on people and less on process".

Trump has a "very different agenda" from Gueterres - FRANCE 24 International Affairs Editor Armen Georgian

As a candidate for president, Trump labeled the UN as weak and incompetent, and not a friend of either the United States or Israel. He once disparaged the world body as a "club" for people "to get together, talk and have a good time" and his administration has threatened deep cuts to UN funding, including a $600 million cut to the peacekeeping budget, which critics warn will significantly affect UN operations.

The United States pays 22 percent of the UN's $5.4 billion core budget and 28.5 percent of the $7.3 billion peacekeeping budget. Many of Trump's closest advisers and donors see the international body as a check on US power and drain on American resources.

But Trump has softened his tone since taking office, telling ambassadors from UN Security Council member countries at a White House meeting this year that the UN has "tremendous potential".

He more recently praised a pair of unanimous Security Council votes to tighten sanctions on North Korea over its continued nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests.

Trump's big moment comes on Tuesday, when he delivers his first address to a session of the UN General Assembly. The annual gathering of world leaders will open amid serious concerns about Trump's priorities, including his policy of "America First" and his stance on a series of global crises.

"There is a sense of American retreat" - FRANCE 24 International Affairs Editor Douglas Herbert

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

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