Russia and China late on September 18 declined to join 128 other nations in signing U.S. President Donald Trump declaration of support for reforms to make the United Nations more effective in addressing global crises.
Russian officials said that while they support the idea of streamlining the UN bureaucracy, they believe any changes in the international body should be negotiated by members states rather than imposed through a declaration drafted solely by the United States.
"We all support increasing the UN's role in the international arena," but the UN does not need major reform, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya told Russia's TASS state news agency.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told TASS and Interfax that Moscow believes reform should be "comprehensive" but any reforms should be agreed through "dialogue."
He said the UN should keep "intact those programs that are working efficiently but rather focus on either those that are obsolete or those whose mandate needs to be optimized."
"From this point of view, we are ready to take part in this process," Gatilov said.
Trump had asked UN member states to sign onto his 10-point declaration on UN reform before inviting them to participate in a special meeting on reform he hosted earlier in the day.
Speaking to the gathering at the UN headquarters in New York, Trump said the world body is failing to live up to its potential and urged it to take a “bold stand” with a more clearly defined global mission.
"Focus more on people, less on bureaucracy," he said. The UN "has not reached its potential because of the bureaucracy and mismanagement."
Trump, a frequent critic of the UN, was frank in laying out his views on how to improve the world body a day before he makes his first address to the 193-member General Assembly, which holds its annual General Debate session from September 19 to 25.
Trump in his address "will urge all states to come together to address grave dangers that threaten us all," such as the North Korean nuclear and missile crisis, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said on September 18.
Trump will stress that "if nations meet these challenges, immense opportunity lies before us," McMaster said.
About 130 world leaders will attend this year's General Assembly’s debate session.
On the reform issue, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres responded to Trump’s message on September 18 by saying he agreed that bureaucracy was an issue that kept him awake at night.
"Someone out to undermine the UN could not have come up with a better way to do it than by imposing some of the rules we have created ourselves," he said.
Part of Trump’s disapproval stems from the cost of the UN to American taxpayers.
Washington, the biggest UN financial contributor, has threatened deep funding cuts that Guterres has said would create an "unsolvable problem" for the organization.
In June, the General Assembly voted to cut $600 million from the organization's nearly $8 billion annual peacekeeping budget amid pressure from the Trump administration.
Trump reiterated his concerns on September 18, saying that the United States was “not seeing results in line with U.S. investment.”
"The United Nations must hold every level of management accountable, protect whistleblowers. and focus on results rather than on process," Trump said.
"I am confident that if we work together and champion truly bold reforms the United Nations will emerge as a stronger, more effective, more just, and greater force for peace and harmony in the world," he added.
With reporting by AFP, dpa, Reuters, Interfax, and TASS