UNITED NATIONS - The head of The Elders criticized President Donald Trump on Tuesday, accusing him of opening up space for the spread of populism.
The Elders is an independent group of leaders who work on issues related to global peace, justice and human rights. It was founded by the late South African president Nelson Mandela in 2007.
"The problem is much wider than President Trump, there is no doubt about that," Chair of The Elders Mary Robinson told reporters at the United Nations, where she had just met with the secretary-general. "But his poor leadership is aggravating the problem."
Robinson cited the spread of isolationist and nationalist policies in parts of both Eastern and Western Europe and in Latin America.
"But when you had the United States strongly supporting multilateralism, strongly supporting the way in which the global issues would be dealt with in partnership-sharing solidarity way, that made a huge difference," Robinson, a former president of Ireland said. "It has opened up a space for that kind of populism."
Robinson noted that there is a growing fear of change among some because automation and other evolving technologies have replaced many working people with computers and robots. Worried workers fear globalization makes such job losses more likely.
'Destabilizing' Twitter habits
Robinson also criticized Trump's love of the social media platform Twitter, saying his habit is "destabilizing," noting the constant media frenzy over parsing his tweets.
"It's all ridiculous," she said. "I can guarantee that The Elders will not be tweeting. We will do what we do in a more mature way."
Robinson said the group of former statesmen have made defending multilateralism and fighting climate change and nuclear proliferation their top priorities.
She said the 2020 U.S. presidential election would perhaps determine "whether we can get back to more emphasis on a multilateral approach."
On global warming, Robinson, who was the U.N. envoy on climate change in the lead-up to the 2015 Paris climate accord, said she is hopeful governments will take more responsibility to meet urgent benchmarks.
"I cannot believe we are mad enough not to guarantee a future for our own species," she said.
The Elders have met with the presidents of China, France and Russia, but she said they had no plans to meet with Trump, although she did not dismiss it.