Ian Williams to launch speaking tour on US-UN relations

Just World Admin Blog, Global Balance, U.S. policy, United Nations

Just World Educational is delighted to announce that veteran global-affairs specialist Ian Williams will shortly be launching a multi-month, multi-city speaker series on the theme: “The US, the United Nations, and the World.”

With Pres. Donald J. Trump now visiting Asia, where he is exploring and possibly also recalibrating Washington’s relationships with some of its most crucial global partners, the launch of this speaker series could not be more timely.

Williams presents a copy of his new book to former UN Sec.-Gen. Ban Ki-moon

This speaker series coincides with the launch– also this month– of Williams’s new book, UNtold: The Real Story of the United Nations in Peace and War. The book is an engaging and highly informative introduction to how the UN works. It  is enlivened by many wrily humorous cartoons penned by “Krishna”– the nom-de-plume of someone who clearly knows his way around the UN very well.

In a short interview November 5, Williams told Just World Ed that under any U.S. president, the relationship with the UN is crucial. “And actually under Pres. Trump, these relations are not as bad as you might think… Trump is probably acting according to sound principles, since if the UN were not in New York, the value of most of his real-estate holdings in the city would plummet.”

(He also made this point in this videotaped discussion, that he held with JWE’s Steve Fake on the recent “UN Day”.)

Williams told us he considered that the level of anti-UN hostility that was once evident in the U.S. heartland has gone down considerably. “You don’t get the same level of hatred, paranoia, and opposition as you did back when radio hosts and rightwing politicians all over the heartland were talking about ‘black helicopters’ and so on,” he said. “That used to be at the top of every conservative’s political agenda. Now, not so much at all. People don’t even remember what the ‘black helicopters’ were supposed to be.”

He said that the main problems in U.S.-UN relations perennially occur at the level of Congress– “But most U.S. presidents except George W. Bush have been fairly well disposed to the UN, because they see how essential it is. George W. Bush and his supporters were angry because [then-Secretary General] Kofi Annan said that the Iraq War was illegal… But you don’t get the same degree of hatred today.”

He said he found it hard to judge the degree to which the sharp outbursts that U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has aimed against various UN institutions actually represented Pres. Trump’s agenda, adding, “I think, basically,that Trump doesn’t have the UN much on his radar.”

Williams has been a UN correspondent for numerous international media outlets, and a contributor to The Guardian, since 1989. In the mid-1990s he was President of the UN Correspondents Association. His upcoming speaker series on “The U.S., the United Nations, and the World” will be launched at the end of November, in New York. We (and he) are now working on setting up speaking engagements in this series in as many U.S. cities as possible, for the first half of 2018.

We’re hoping that, by sharing his vast reservoir of understanding of both how the UN is supposed to work and how it actually does work– along with some of the many fascinating “insider” stories he’s picked up over his years at UNHQ– Williams can help to inform new generations of Americans about the value of the world body.

“We can certainly remind people that the UN really plays a big role in sharing the burden of preserving lives and international order, all around the world. Pres. Trump is into ‘burden sharing’ these days– and this is what the UN has been doing for years! If UN peacekeepers go into a country, then G.I.’s don’t have to.”

He also noted that China is now playing “a pretty important role at the UN– much more significant than was the case, say, ten years ago. They have peacekeepers in so many places!”

He said that in a period in which China’s global power is rising and the relative power of the United States is sinking, “the UN is more relevant and needed than before. It’s the one place where people can always still talk to each other. That was true even during the depths of the Cold War. Today, even the United States and North Korea can talk to each at the UN!”

Note: If you or a community group or class you’re connected with would like to bring Ian Williams’s speaking tour to your hometown, please contact JWE’s Director of Outreach, Steve Fake, to make the arrangements. (And if you’d like to get a taste of Williams’s engaging speaking style, check out the video mentioned above.)