As host country of the U.N. headquarters during the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. has a unique opportunity to hold center-stage at an organization Trump has consistently derided, and which at times has returned the favor.
Other world leaders have openly laughed at his speeches and been witness to awkward moments, ranging from Trump announcing to leaders that he could “totally destroy” North Korea, to a spat with teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Nevertheless, the U.N. depends on American money to continue many of its operations: The U.S. provides 22 percent of the body’s regular funding, annually. Trump recently made waves by formally beginning U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization, the U.N. health agency, criticizing its Covid-19 response and labeling it a mouthpiece for China. The U.S. is one of 88 countries that has not yet paid its 2020 U.N. dues in full.
Craft said that America’s priorities during the 2020 General Assembly would be “human rights and transparency” and that in the absence of world leaders, hundreds of UNGA side events will either move online or take place later in 2020.
U.N. General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres have been “extremely careful at mitigating this virus within the U.N. system,” Craft said.
Craft has been taking her diplomacy beyond the confines of the U.N. Security Council — the highest level U.N. decision-making body at which the U.S. has a permanent seat — during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Since we have been sheltering in place, I used that time to start calling 185 of the ambassadors, just to check on people,” Craft said. Craft’s advisers had originally wanted her to conduct her diplomacy speed-dating tour during the first weeks of her tenure in mid-2019.
Craft said ambassadors from smaller countries were “shocked” to receive her call, but said they were “very responsive,” helping to create “a special bond” that the U.S. would find useful in its efforts to reform the U.N.