DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights chief expressed alarm after a speech by U.S. President Donald Trump in Davos on Friday, saying Trump’s call for countries to pursue their own self-interest would take the world back to the eve of World War One.
“It’s the script of the 20th century,” Zeid Raad al-Hussein said. “He (Trump) urged all countries to pursue their own interest, almost without reference to the fact that if you do all of that, if each country is narrowly pursuing its agenda, it will clash with the agendas of others and we will take the world back to 1913 once again.”
Prince Zeid, a former Jordanian diplomat and member of the deposed royal family of Iraq, has repeatedly criticised Trump in the past in his role as U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the global body’s top spokesman on human rights issues.
The Trump administration, for its part, has threatened to quit the U.N. Human Rights Council, which is separate from Zeid’s office but works closely with it, and which Washington considers structurally hostile to its ally Israel.
Trump became the first sitting U.S. president in 18 years to address the annual summit of the world’s political and business elite in the Swiss ski resort of Davos on Friday. In his speech, he courted foreign investment, saying the United States was “open for business”, while also promising to take action against what he described as unfair trade deals.
Repeating his “America first” slogan, Trump said he would expect all world leaders to put the interests of their own countries first.
Prince Zeid said such a policy would lead to “it all coming apart at some stage, and people suffering grievously”.
“Ethnic nationalisms, chauvinistic nationalisms, a sense that there is a supremacy within communities determined on the basis of colour or ethnicity, and that others are somehow lesser people, or that certain countries are somehow morally superior to others. That’s what always seems to get us into trouble.”
Zeid also said he was concerned about a new coalition government in Austria, which includes the far right Freedom Party.
“I have to say I read the document between the two parties, and it’s worrisome, because it has within it - xenophobia is clearly there,” Zeid told an audience at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “There is a sense that Austria now may start to tack, following Hungary and Poland, in its anti-European stance.”
Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Peter Graff