UNITED NATIONS — Former Irish president Mary Robinson, who heads the group of prominent former leaders founded by Nelson Mandela, criticized President Donald Trump for "poor leadership" Tuesday, saying it is aggravating the world's difficulty in uniting to tackle climate change and the threat of nuclear war.
Her group, known as The Elders, supports multilateral efforts to address problems, and Robinson acknowledged that the current "bumpy period" for multilateralism goes beyond Trump. "But he certainly has made his negative contribution to that, and I think part of it is the habit of tweeting," she said at a news conference.
Robinson called the U.S. president's tweeting "destabilizing," saying his tweets lead to endless analysis by the media, "and nothing happens really and it's all ridiculous."
She said the problem today is that Trump is aggravating is populism.
"It is a sense of countries putting the country first in an isolationist, nationalistic way," and it is happening in Europe, especially parts of Eastern Europe, as well as in Latin America, including Brazil and other countries, she said. "It's a much more global phenomenon."
"When you had the United States strongly supporting multilateralism, strongly supporting the way in which the global issues would be dealt with in a partnership ... that made a huge difference," Robinson said.
The Elders met recently with Chinese President Xi Jinping and have also sat down with Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Emmanuel Macron of France, but Robinson said its members haven't asked for a meeting with Trump, though she didn't rule it out.
"It's difficult to see how constructive a conversation we could have with President Trump at the moment given his clear views, particularly on the two issues that we are prioritizing as essential threats and the disruption of the multilateral system, including the trade system, the undermining of the WTO (World Trade Organization)," she said.
Robinson said "it's quite across the board — the lack of the awareness somehow of the importance of a multilateral system that benefits both big countries and very small countries and very poor countries, and that we've built up since the Second World War."
She expressed hope that Trump's recent participation at events commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France that led to the end of World War II would instill some of the lessons of allies working together, "and lead to more understanding of the importance of the multilateral system."
Asked what advice The Elders would give Trump on Iran and North Korea, she said the group would stress the importance of keeping to agreements like the Iran nuclear deal reached through a process that engaged many countries. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 agreement.
If the U.S. president aspires to have a nuclear agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Robinson said, "it doesn't help build trust if you pull out of an existing agreement."
Robinson said young people and the business community give her hope for the future, especially in tackling climate change by reducing carbon emissions.
"There's a movement if we could just connect the dots that would put the pressure on the only part of the system that's not moving, which is the political leaders," she said.