Photo: Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen (USAF), via Wikimedia | Licence: Public Domain

What comes after the “American century”?

“The excesses of globalisation, the arrogance of its winners, the elites, on the other hand, must come to an end. Elitism has given rise to Trumpism, which also has its justified arguments, for example this one: That the other side likes to stand up for diversity, but keeps to itself, in the milieus of the big cities, of the internationally networked.” Susanne Beyer, Der SPIEGEL

Photo: Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen (USAF), via Wikimedia | Licence: Public Domain

(IT/IPS) – The US president-elect, Donald J. Trump, has shaken up the post-Cold War world order like no other. It cannot be overlooked that Trump was as much a seismograph as a trigger of these tremors. The geopolitical and economic (re)rise of India and China, the systematic weakening of the USA and the growing dominance of non-state actors such as Big Data predate his term in office. Hopes for a return to the pre-Trump status quo with a President Biden could be disappointed, however.

In the 2016 election campaign and during his time in office, Donald Trump has shown himself to be an openly hard-line advocate of a unilateral foreign policy. Under the slogan “America First,” he targeted multinational institutions and bodies such as the United Nations. Election winner Biden, on the other hand, told the New York Times on 10 November that he makes no secret of wanting to “bury” Trump’s dominant slogan as soon as possible.

According to US foreign policy expert Phyllis Bennis of the Washington Institute for Policy Studies, there is no doubt that Biden wants to return to active participation in these international structures. Specifically, she said, he wanted to reverse his resignation from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on his first day in office in light of the Covid 19 pandemic. Observers also assume that Biden wants to re-join the Paris Agreement on climate protection.

Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has either defunded, resigned from or attacked several UN agencies and affiliated institutions, including the WHO, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). They also included the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

It is a mistake to attribute the development solely to Donald J. Trump or his ideological camp. Not only does his stance speak for the long isolationist attitude of a traditional Republican electorate. The Trump administration had additionally reigned in the fact that the increasing dominance of China and its allies at the United Nations threatens to change the circumstances in international bodies. This includes the fact that Beijing, as well as other states with China’s help, are intent on pitting national sovereignty against human rights and international standards. Similarly, the effectiveness of institutions such as the Human Rights Council must be questioned when Beijing and other regimes can blatantly act against the values espoused by the UN.

A good example is the global debate on China’s repression of its Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province and other regions. While less than three dozen states such as the US, EU members and others criticise the mass deportation of Muslim Uyghurs and the almost complete curtailment of their most basic rights, other states – namely almost all members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – remain silent. Yet Beijing uses its increased engagement with the United Nations, bilateral assistance agreements and its infamous “wolf warrior diplomacy” to legitimise the cultural genocide of the Uyghurs in the context of counterterrorism and national sovereignty. In line with the principle of “carrot and stick,” China uses diplomatic pressure and economic aid as part of its foreign policy. It also buys strategically relevant facilities such as ports, airports, and other structures in many parts of the world.

Despite this real antagonism and its potentially negative consequences for the global order, internationalist voices hope for improvement from a new Biden administration. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres congratulated the American people on “a vibrant exercise of democracy in their country’s elections last week.” Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the General Secretariat, said Guterres had specifically congratulated the President-elect and Vice-President-elect and reaffirmed that the partnership between the United States and the United Nations was an essential pillar of international cooperation needed to address the dramatic challenges.

Dr Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Centre for Protection Engagement (R2P), expressed optimism: “I think Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are aware of the injustices in US history and challenges in human rights violations that their country has faced over the last four years. I hope they will bring this awareness to the global stage and become consistent champions of human rights and international justice everywhere. We need them to strengthen the international norms and laws that Trump has tried so hard to ignore or undermine during his presidency.”

* Using material from the Inter Press Service.

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