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Next UN Ambassador Must Be Voice for Human Rights

Nikki Haley’s rapid departure leaves the door open for more extremist elements in U.S. leadership to exert more influence.

By Josh Leach on October 11, 2018

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley’s surprise resignation on Monday highlights the dangers of the Trump administration’s continued disengagement from the global community, as well as the need for U.S. leadership to show a more genuine commitment to human rights and the international rule of law.

During her nearly two years as Ambassador, Haley’s actions have dealt incalculable harm to international institutions and the United States’ status as a moral leader. Since 2016, the United States has withdrawn from the UN Human Rights Council, the Global Compact on Migration, and the Paris Agreement, and has slashed funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency. These actions have entrenched the Trump administration’s amoral and isolationist “America First” foreign policy and imperiled the global project of promoting human rights.

While sometimes characterized as a moderating influence within the Trump administration, Haley notably failed to halt many of the President’s worst policies, including his recent decision to reduce the United States’ refugee admissions target for 2019 to the lowest level in history. While she condemned human rights violations committed by the Burmese military against the Rohingya people, her remarks stopped short of calling these crimes a genocide and demanding a referral of the case for prosecution to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Haley also strengthened ties to regimes in Honduras and Guatemala that have violated or systematically failed to protect the rights of their citizens. Through her actions in Central America—as well as in the United States’ continued support for a catastrophic Saudi-led war in Yemen—Haley has abetted governments actively hostile to human rights.

Moreover, Haley’s rapid departure leaves the door open for more extremist elements in U.S. leadership to exert more influence. U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, who served as UN Ambassador under George W. Bush, has long been an opponent of international institutions and recently used one of his first public appearances as adviser to denounce the ICC, even as it has begun a crucial investigation into the Burmese military’s crimes against the Rohingya.

These and related actions by the Trump administration have led to a crisis of moral leadership at the highest levels of the U.S. government. It is essential that the next appointee to the UN Ambassador role be a sincere proponent of human rights and a defender of the ideals of international solidarity.

UUSC was founded at a time when isolationist policies were turning away thousands of refugees from our shores, many of whom may have perished in the Holocaust as a result. Now as before, the United States’ moral stature and true long-term interests cannot be served by an isolationist ideology of “America First,” but only by making humanity, compassion, and the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the basis of our foreign policy.

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