The World of International Organizations Explained

Queen tells Trump of multilateral virtues

Queen Elizabeth II and U.S. President Donald Trump view American items in the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace (ARÊTE/Shealah Craighead)

Queen Elizabeth II used her toast at a royal state dinner welcoming the Americans in Buckingham Palace on Monday to remind U.S. President Donald Trump of the importance of international organizations and treaties.

At a carefully staged visit balancing pageantry and diplomacy, the British monarch made the most of the occasion, touting the multilateral institutions that Britain and the United States helped to create in the wake of two world wars with the ultimate aim of preventing a third one.

Trump’s visit was planned to coincide with a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the June 6, 1944, D-Day landing that the queen was hosting in Portsmouth, England, where the invasion was launched. He also was to move across the Channel for a ceremony hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron along the beaches of Normandy, France, where Allied forces started to recapture Western Europe from the Nazis.

“Visits by American Presidents always remind us of the close and longstanding friendship between the United Kingdom and the United States, and I am so glad that we have another opportunity to demonstrate the immense importance that both our countries attach to our relationship,” the 93-year-old queen began.

“As we face the new challenges of the 21st century, the anniversary of D-Day reminds us of all that our countries have achieved together,” said the queen, who trained and served as an army truck mechanic and driver during World War II. “After the shared sacrifices of the Second World War, Britain and the United States worked with other allies to build an assembly of international institutions, to ensure that the horrors of conflict would never be repeated. While the world has changed, we are forever mindful of the original purpose of these structures: nations working together to safeguard a hard-won peace.”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has repeatedly emphasized the world body’s mission of preventing more wars. Last year, he led off a major push to cut stockpiles of arms — everything from “grenades to H-bombs” — in an attempt to eliminate warmongering around the world.

Guterres, a former prime minister of Portugal and ex-head of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, used that occasion to recall that the 1945 U.N. Charter — its foundational treaty at the end of World War II — specified a key mission was “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

Londoners set to protest

Trump has repeatedly assailed the importance of multilateral institutions such as the United Nations and NATO. He withdrew American support and funding from numerous international organizations and treaties intended to cut the risks of everything from nuclear war to global warming to human rights abuses.

Huge anti-Trump protests in London were expected, including a reappearance of the giant blimp of a diaper-clad “Trump Baby” holding a cellphone and a new protest symbol — a talking Trump robot sitting on a toilet. The now-famous helium-filled blimp first emerged last year in London, when more than 100,000 people hit the streets for an anti-Trump rally.

Even before his arrival in the U.K., Trump and London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan revived their political feud. Khan, a Muslim of Pakistani descent who has objected to Trump’s effort to ban Muslim travelers from entering the U.S., posted a video describing Trump as “just one of the most egregious examples of a growing global threat” from right-wing nationalist populists who use the language of “fascists of the 20th century.”

Elle UK posted the video, focused on gender issues, a day before Trump’s arrival. “Your values and what you stand for are the complete opposite of London’s values and the values in the country,” Khan said. “We think diversity is not a weakness. Diversity is a strength. We respect women. And we think they’re equal to men.”

Trump, in turn, tweeting insultingly that Khan is a “stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London.”

Queen Elizabeth II, President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at Buckingham Palace (ARÊTE/Andrea Hanks)

A post-Brexit trade deal?

Before the D-Day commemoration, Trump was to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May at Downing Street for a day of talks and a news conference. At the top of their agenda was a potential bilateral trade deal that would become effective if the U.K. leaves the European Union as voters narrowly decided in 2016.

“Big Trade Deal is possible once U.K. gets rid of the shackles. Already starting to talk,” Trump tweeted on Monday. Until Britain leaves the European Union, its trade with the United States is subject to E.U. rules.

Trump has been harshly critical of May and her failure to secure a Brexit deal, and she is set to resign as head of the Conservative Party later this week. Britain has been forced to request an extension from the E.U. on its muddled Brexit plans, despite May’s continued insistence that her nation can negotiate a deal.

May also planned to use the Americans’ visit to impress upon Trump the importance of international cooperation, highlighted both in the 1941 Atlantic Charter between Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt that became the basis for many post-war multilateral institutions, and in the difficult operation of landing Allied forces across the English Channel in Normandy.

Allied forces landed more than 156,000 troops in Nazi-occupied France by sea and air on D-Day, including 73,000 Americans and 83,000 British and Canadians in what remains the biggest amphibious invasion in military history. Many other nations participated in D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, including Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland.

The centennial celebration of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, negotiated by the Paris Peace Conference at the Palace of Versailles in 1919 on the outskirts of Paris, will come later this month. That treaty helped end World War I and gave rise to the League of Nations, which as the predecessor of the United Nations contributed to the 20th century era of nations increasingly pursuing their interests through international organizations, security pacts, political treaties and trade deals.

Shaped by a history of waterways and world wars, international organizations proliferated in the 20th century. Their ranks swelled from 213 in 1909 up to 62,468 in 2009, according to figures from the Brussels-based Union of International Associations that also counts tens of thousands of inactive organizations.

The World Bank and its sister lending agency, the International Monetary Fund, both based in Washington, were set up to rebuild postwar Europe and to promote international cooperation at a U.S.-led meeting of 43 nations at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in July 1944. Since that time, especially in the 21st century, the missions of these “Bretton Woods” institutions have shifted to focus more on development and poverty.

But the trade conflicts sparked by Trump’s tariffs against China, the European Union and others threaten to undermine the work of international organizations trying to lift the world’s poorest out of poverty.

Leaders of international organizations that promote global trade and investment have said their efforts are at risk of stalling or failing because of the trade war between the United States and China and other trade tensions between the United States and many of its most important trading partners.

The queen, however, said the U.K.-U.S. bond remains strong due to shared security, culture and heritage, and “the strength and breadth of our economic ties, as the largest investors in each other’s economies. British companies in the United States employ over 1 million Americans, and the same is true vice versa.”

The world of international organizations explained.

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