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Trump Speech Betrays Generations-Old U.S. Commitment to Core Values

U.S. President Donald Trump spoke today at the 73rd annual session of the United Nations General Assembly. The following is Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) Executive Director Donna McKay’s response to his speech:

“President Trump’s speech today at the United Nations, purporting to defend U.S. sovereignty against an undefined ‘globalism,’ was really a disguised rejection of the common standards of the international rule of law. UN institutions, that promote the rule of law, embody the highest aspirations of those who lived through World War II to find common ground in the search for international cooperation and peace. The United States has been a formative leader in establishing the concept of international norms as contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That document, guided by the wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt, held that rights of people anywhere in the world are the concern of all nations, and that governments cannot hide behind skewed notions of sovereignty to violate the rights of their citizens. 

“Dictators around the world, from the Philippines to Hungary to Venezuela, are eager to find a justification for their human rights violations. Trump’s words, dismissing the rule of law as an impingement on freedom, gives them a green light to violate human rights standards in the name of sovereignty and national security. This erosion of standards makes the world a more dangerous place, and undermines the national security of the United States itself. 
“The Trump administration’s withdrawal of support for international human rights norms, and from engagement with the international human rights machinery, sends ominous signals to governments and citizens around the world. Some of these institutions, including the UN Human Rights Council, are certainly imperfect, but the United States’ withdrawal only allows human rights violators to take away the damaging message that human rights are simply no longer a U.S. priority.

“The scathing critique by President Trump of the International Criminal Court, and, recently, the even more vicious attacks by his national security advisor John Bolton, severely undermine U.S. efforts to establish accountability for crimes committed in Myanmar, Syria, and elsewhere.  They fail to take into account how effective U.S. leadership can be on accountability, as seen in its efforts to create the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.  

“President Trump is turning his back on a proud part of the U.S. legacy of promoting universal human rights and the international rule of law. Core American values are deeply embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and have inspired people all over the world for generations as they struggled for their unalienable rights.

“The world witnessed the General Assembly’s snickering during parts of President Trump’s speech today. Those of good conscience must not allow the United States’ legacy of leadership, and the patient work of generations, to be destroyed by misguided ideologues whose policies threaten to further harm those who are most vulnerable. It is no laughing matter.” 

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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