The Question After the Presidential Election
“What happens next?” has become a common refrain in the weeks after the 2016 Presidential election. How do we deal with and wade through the aftermath of what was perhaps the most divisive and vitriolic campaign season in American history? What will the world do throughout the Trump administration, and what will the Trump administration do to the world? Will global progress be promoted, or reversed?
Newly Appointed UN Ambassador Nikki Haley
Central to our concerns at the United Nations is how the new UN Ambassador, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, will manage her role and portray American interests. While Ms. Haley has made a number of overseas trips during her time in office, she has little foreign policy experience. The overseas state visits were primarily focused on trade, and she will face a tremendous learning curve in diplomacy and foreign affairs when she arrives in New York. However, she has managed several crises in South Carolina with a steady hand, including the Charleston church shooting last year, rampant floods across the state and the removal of the Confederate flag from the state building. As the daughter of immigrants from India, her appointment adds some much-needed diversity to the predominantly white, male Trump Cabinet. However, her appointment must be more than token diversity at a time when global crises are mounting. From continued civil war in Syria, to enduring hostilities between nuclear-capable countries (1,2), to the largest flow of migrants since World War II, to increasing populism worldwide – the role of the next UN Ambassador will be to hold these issues in a delicate balance as she learns to negotiate with world leaders and diplomats with decades of experience.
Governor Haley will also have to promote a positive image of the United States on the world stage, and will have to gracefully liaise between a thus-far unpredictable Trump administration and the bureaucratic, diplomatic United Nations. As suspicions of conflicts of interest between the Trump administration and Trump businesses mount, it is crucial that Haley is not a spokesperson for any deals that would potentially benefit Trump businesses while negatively impacting the common good. Haley has big shoes to fill, as current Ambassador Samantha Power has been an outspoken advocate for UN Peacekeeping reform and for attention to tension in Central African Republic, South Sudan and other areas that are not in the media spotlight. Ambassador Power also brought a wealth of experience to the UN as an international journalist, a professor of foreign policy and as a Special Assistant for human rights on the National Security Staff. (Learn more about the scope of what Governor Haley will be doing at the United Nations.)
Foreign Aid Contributions are Critical to Global Development
United States foreign aid contributions are critical to global development. With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, now is not the time for the United States to de-fund important programs that serve to lessen the plight of disadvantaged populations worldwide. USAID helps to lift people out of poverty, improve nutrition for women and children, and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. The United States provides the majority of funding for the UN Refugee Agency, which has been instrumental in helping to resettle those seeking to flee conflict, including Syrians. If the Trump administration were to cut funding, thousands would suffer.
What can we do as responsible citizens?
What can we all do to make sure the Trump administration upholds the dignity of all persons worldwide? For starters, become engaged in the day-to-day happenings at the UN! The UN webpage provides articles, videos, live-streams of events and meetings, and ideas for further action. Additionally, keep abreast of local and national issues, and stay well-informed. Contributing time or resources to organizations such as UNHCR, Human Rights Watch, ACLU, and US Fund for UNICEF will help to ensure that human rights abuses do not occur, as well as ensure that critical services are provided to those in need around the world and at home. Calling or writing letters to Senators and Representatives is also an effective way to voice opinions on policies and appointments. Extremely influential leaders to call include Paul Ryan (R-WI, Speaker of the House), Chuck Schumer (D-NY, Senate Minority Leader), and Mitch McConnell (R-KY, Senate Majority Leader). Participating in actions of solidarity (such as vigils or prayer services) or organizing your own are ways to bring public attention to the issues. The intervention of civil society groups, from local grassroots organizations, to national organizations and international NGOs, will prove critical over the course of the next four years and beyond.