UN losing support from countries, says outgoing top official
United Nations (Shutterstock)

The UN's outgoing political chief expressed concern Thursday in a parting message that the United Nations was losing support from a growing number of countries.

Jeffrey Feltman, an American who served as under-secretary-general for political affairs since 2012, said it was "quite worrying" that leaders were questioning the value of the United Nations.

"I do leave here concerned about making sure that we maintain in addition to the excellent leadership we have... that we maintain member-state support," said Feltman.

There are "an increasing number of leaders, increasing number of countries that are questioning whether the multinational system that this organization represents is the right way forward, is the answer," he said.

His remarks were directed in part at the United States where President Donald Trump has cut funding to the world body and his new national security adviser John Bolton has expressed skepticism about the UN's work.

Feltman described the United Nations as a "force multiplier" in addressing issues including terrorism and climate change that concern US national interests and those of other countries.

"We need to show that we can be effective," he said in a farewell press conference.

Feltman, who oversaw UN efforts to end conflicts worldwide, said Syria "remains the most tragic example of the failures of the international community to address a peace-and-security, humanitarian and human rights catastrophe."

Now in its eighth year, the war in Syria has killed more than 350,000 people with no breakthrough in sight for diplomatic efforts that have been undermined by divisions in the Security Council.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in December dispatched Feltman to North Korea to push for dialogue as fears of a nuclear war gripped the region.

It was the highest-level UN visit to Pyongyang in six years, a mission undertaken with Trump's approval.

Despite signs that the United States is opting for diplomacy on North Korea, Feltman said it was "important to manage expectations."

"The issues are extremely complicated," he warned, adding that summit meetings between North and South Korean leaders as well as between Trump and Kim Jong Un would be the "start of the process".

Feltman will be replaced by another American, Rosemary DiCarlo, who becomes the first woman to hold the top post.