By Devon O’Reilly, August 29, 2017 — 

In less than a month, President Trump will speak in front of the United Nations for the first time. Will his remarks align with the United States’ past commitments to human rights and moral leadership in global development?

The President has come under fire recently for remarks seeming to condone police brutalityracist violence, and preemptive war. These statements are in stark contrast to past U.S. presidents, who have used the pulpit of the opening of the United Nations General Assembly each September to share their vision for prosperity and security around the globe.

Within the context of the United Nations — an institution for multinational cooperation founded on an understanding of basic human rights — moral leadership is not only important but necessary. A secure and thriving world is only possible if leaders are committed to the underlying belief that every individual is “born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Particularly when it comes to women and girls, one must recognize the indivisibility of human rights and women’s rights. Based on this definition, a look back at the Trump administration’s track record can safely say that their actions demonstrate that this administration does not view that women’s rights are seen as human rights. The reinstatement of the Global Gag rule, the defunding of the United Nations Populations Fund, the proposed deep cuts to the foreign assistance budget and the United Nations, the inclusion of hate groups in the U.S. delegation at the Commission on the Status of Women are just a few of the more egregious actions taken against the cause of women’s rights by the Trump administration over the last seven months.

If President Trump’s remarks at the United Nations next month follow this pattern of activity, it is safe to assume that he will not use his remarks to defend and uphold women’s rights. 

Taking this into consideration, we must also remember what United Nations General Assembly is, and what it stands for. Over the last 71 years, United Nations member states have met to address one another about pressing national and world affairs. Perhaps most notably, it has been a space for nations to come together and adopt conventions that will create positive change for the global community.

It was at the 2015 United Nations General Assembly session that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted – unanimously. The United States and 192 other nations made a global promise to prosperity, people, and the planet.

Signed conventions may bestow a commitment and obligation by the signatory, but some see United Nations commitments as simply words on paper. But these are still commitments made by world leaders, whose citizens will hold them accountable to uphold. Despite the Trump Administration’s undeniable attacks on the rights of women around the world and amoral approach to foreign policy, we must remember that the United States signed onto the SDGs, which includes a commitment to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

The United States has not only the obligation to meet these goals within its own borders but an obligation, as a world leader, to demonstrate leadership on the global stage and support the full implementation of the goals around the world.

As President Trump prepares for his first speech at the United Nations, we hope that he will take the following into consideration: adhere to the global commitments that the United States has made, take the opportunity to demonstrate leadership for the women and girls who are half the world’s population, and remember that a commitment to achieve gender equality can start today.