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Ambassador Nikki Haley: Walking the Tightrope on Human Rights

One of our key inquiries on the subject of human rights in the Gender Policy Report is how the face of U.S. diplomacy will be transformed by the Trump Administration. Of particular interest are key changes in U.S. institutions and personnel, which signal a shift on international protections for human rights and gender equality around the world. This inquiry leads us to the most prominent female presence in foreign policy, Nikki Haley, confirmed by the Senate on January 24, 2017, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

A Retreat from International Human Rights is not Gender-neutral

In its first 100 days, the Trump administration’s “America First” rhetoric and actions have led to an increased focus on national security and a retreat from international institutions. In particular, these early days have been marked by disengagement from or attacks on international human rights systems that play a key role in the protection of women’s rights. For all their shortcomings—including their own historic gender biases—international human rights norms and institutions provide an advocacy space for groups whose dignity, worth, agency, or security have been systematically undermined by state policy and practice. This has been especially true for the rights of women. We have observed retreats from human rights at home, from human rights in foreign policy, and from the spaces and practices designed to uphold women’s rights globally. Here, we highlight some of the human rights effects of the fledgling administration’s actions—and inactions.

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Beyond the Wall

Since November there’s been an upsurge in local, national and international marches where protestors carry signs that read: “Build Bridges, Not Walls.” They are responding, of course, to the Trump Administration’s long-promised Border Wall. And they are reiterating something scholars already know: even where there are border walls, creative community building, so often spear-headed by women, easily blurs boundaries.

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New President, Old Anti-Abortion Policy

On his third day in office, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that prohibits reproductive health NGOs that receive US family planning assistance from providing abortion services, information, or referrals, or participating in advocacy to liberalize abortion laws. Since its introduction by President Reagan’s administration in 1984 at the United Nations Conference on Population and Development in Mexico City, this policy been reinstated by Republican presidents (George H. Bush and George W. Bush) and rescinded by Democratic presidents (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama). In other words, it represents a way of signaling, during the earliest days of each new administration, the government’s stance on global and domestic abortion politics.

Defending Human Rights in an Era of Retrogression

Given the misogynistic tenor of the discourse used by the President throughout his campaign, as well as the trend toward repudiating established supranational spaces, many of us are justifiably concerned about the roll-back of the legal and policy advances that we have won in the global arena over the past three decades in terms of women’s human rights and gender equality. In this section of the Report we will be watching how U.S. federal laws, policy, and diplomacy under the Trump administration will interact with various international systems related to the protection and promotion of human rights and gender equality and the direct and indirect impact on human rights on the ground.