The United Nations Needs the U.S.

By Bruce Knotts

This post was originally sent out on October 23 via a monthly email message from Director Bruce Knotts of the Unitarian Universalist Association Office at the United Nations. Subscribe to the UU@UN email list.

Façade of United Nations' headquarters in New York City

The world and the United Nations needs the United States to lead. No, I don’t believe in American exceptionalism. The UN and the world don’t need the U.S. in its current disheveled state.

The UN and the world need the U.S. to be a strong and positive influence, setting an example as it has in the past for human rights protection, climate action, and compassionate immigration policy that others might follow.

Tomorrow, October 24, is United Nations Day, and this year the UN marks its 75th birthday. At our UN75 anniversary event yesterday evening, Gillian Sorensen shared her concern about the present U.S. administration’s withdrawal from global cooperation. She said, "America First, means America alone, America isolated. Without American leadership at the UN, there is a vacuum. Such a vacuum will be filled by China or other nations."

Though the United Nations claims equality for "nations large and small," it is far from making that into reality. There are three nations that have outsized influence on the planet: the U.S., Russia, and China. The U.S. tops the list of the world’s strongest navies, armies, and economies, with only China nearly matching the U.S. in all three lists. Militarily Russia is also a match to the U.S. and China, but not economically.

At the UN, the U.S. has been a leader not only because of its powerful military and economy, but also because of the long list of allies that it has been able to count on for support.

Remember that the U.S. is a principal founding nation of the UN, and the UN charter was written with a lot of American input. However, the U.S. is now attempting to go it alone by neglecting to pay its UN dues and by withdrawing from many UN bodies. To date, the U.S. has withdrawn or halted funding from:

  1. The Paris Climate Accords
  2. The UN Human Rights Council
  4. The World Health Organization
  5. UN Global Compact for Migration
  6. UN Security Council Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Nuclear Deal)
  7. UNRWA United Nations Relief and Works Agency (Aid to refugees in Palestine)

Aside from UN treaties, the U.S. has withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (which weakened our alliances in the Pacific and Asia) and from several bilateral arms control treaties with Russia. It has likewise threatened to withdraw from both the World Trade Organization and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

Both the U.S. and the world are better when the U.S. is connected to the rest of the world and working with all United Nations agencies. As part of the community of nations and in conversation with all peoples, the U.S. behaves better – as any nation or even person does when in relationship with a larger community.

Your UUA Office at the United Nations is working hard to provide a strong voice at the United Nations for inclusion, equity, and multilateralism. We are grateful for your support in this.

In this critical election time, please keep in mind the impact that our elected leaders have on the world stage. We hope the U.S. presence at the UN can once again become our allies.

Let’s make a resolution for the next 25 years as we look toward the UN’s 100th anniversary. Let’s quickly rejoin the community of nations, work with all the UN agencies and be a good neighbor and friend. Let’s immediately welcome refugees, advocate for human rights, use our wealth to work with other nations to end global poverty and hunger. Most of all let’s work with the world to promote peace and a sustainable planet.

About the Author

Bruce Knotts

Bruce Knotts is the Director of the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations. He was born and raised in Southern California. He got his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Pepperdine University and his Master’s Degree in International Education from the Monterey Institute of...


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