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The Quotes From Trump's First UN Speech That Every Global Citizen Needs to Hear

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
Mary Altaffer/AP

President Donald Trump just gave his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) — and with all that’s going on in the world right now, he had a lot to say.

“We meet at a time of both immense promise and great peril,” President Trump told world leaders this morning. He went on to address everything from the US’s foreign aid budget and the refugee crisis to ISIS and Venezuela.

This is the 72nd Session of the UNGA, the annual gathering of world leaders to discuss and tackle international issues, and its theme is “Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet.”

We’ve broken down some of his key talking points and what they could mean for the global community.


On the US Foreign Aid Budget

“The United States bears an unfair cost burden, but to be fair if it could actually accomplish all of its stated goals — especially the goal of peace — this investment would easily be well worth it,” he said.

While it is true that the US contributes more funding to the UN than any other country, the amount of funding it provides is relative to the percentage of the world’s gross income that the US generates. The amount of funding the US provides to the UN also takes into account the fact that the US has one of the highest per capita income levels in the world, according to CNN.

The US is responsible for 22% of the UN’s funding, as Trump mentions in his speech, which is the maximum any country can contribute, but that funding makes up only 0.08% of the US’s overall federal budget, based on government data.

Earlier this year, President Trump proposed massive cuts to foreign aid, which include drastic reductions in its contributions to the UN that would cripple the organization’s work, the UN has said.

Read more: The Trump Administration Is Planning to Slash UN Program Funding by Half: Report

In his UNGA speech today, Trump said the funding the US provides to the UN would be a worthwhile investment, if it were able to fulfill its goals. But if Trump’s proposed budget cuts become a reality, “it [would be] impossible for the U.N. to continue all of its essential work advancing peace, development, human rights and humanitarian assistance,” a spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General said.

On the Syrian Refugee Crisis

“The United States is a compassion nation,” the President said while thanking Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon for their response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

The three Middle Eastern countries are hosting more than 4.8 million Syrian refugees, according to data from the UN High Commission for Refugees, while the US has accepted just over 18,000 since the war broke out in Syria.

Read more: The US Resettled 10,000 Syrian Refugees — Which Cities Are They Calling Home?

President Trump has proposed immigration policies that would greatly reduce the number of refugees the US accepts from all over the world, including Syria.

“For the cost of resettling one refugee in the United States, we can assist more than ten in their home region,” he told the UNGA.

However, Turkey and Lebanon have taken in the highest numbers of refugees and both have strained to cope with the sudden influx of so many refugees. World leaders like Angela Merkel have urged other politicians to share the responsibility to protect and host refugees.

On the Human Rights Council

“It is a massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the UN Human Rights Council,” President Trump said in his speech on Tuesday.

Earlier this year, the US threatened to quit the council citing “anti-Israel” sentiments from other council members and protesting the inclusion of countries with poor human rights records, like China, Cuba, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia on the council.

While the appointments of countries such as Saudi Arabia to the council have been criticized by organizations like Human Rights Watch, pulling out of the council would mean giving up a key opportunity to help form international human rights recommendations. 

On International Cooperation

“Our success depends on a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty, to promote security, prosperity and peace, for themselves and for the world,” President Trump told the UNGA.

He praised the “beautiful vision” of the UN institution, a “vision that diverse nations could cooperate to protect their sovereignty, preserve their security, and promote their prosperity.”

But he also urged member states to follow in his example of putting his own country first, emphasizing state sovereignty, a country’s absolute right to govern itself.

“We do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties, to respect the interests of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation,” he said.

His repeated emphasis on “sovereignty” — which he mentioned 20 times in his 40-minute speech —  somewhat undercut his initial call for cooperation.

The president notably did not mention the ongoing Rohingya crisis in Myanmar or climate change, both hot topics at the 72nd UNGA session.