The next US Ambassador to the United Nations will enter a complex diplomatic landscape with the responsibility to advance the 2030 Agenda, the most ambitious international development agenda ever put forward. For this critical role, President-elect Donald Trump has nominated South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley—a prominent figure in the Republican Party. Haley lacks meaningful foreign policy experience, questions the fundamental importance of the United Nations, and brings a deeply held ideological opposition to reproductive rights to the global stage.
Governor Haley was introduced today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who last week introduced legislation to withhold all funding to the United Nations. She supports cutting US funding of the institution. This position threatens to isolate and undermine US leadership, and cripple a lifesaving institution responsible for advancing human rights and protecting the lives and health of millions of underserved communities globally—from refugees to women and girls.
Governor Haley’s views and actions also represent an across-the-board threat to women’s health. She has staked her name as an opponent of abortion rights in the state of South Carolina, signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation, including a 20-week abortion ban in May 2016. She also launched a statewide investigation into clinics that provide abortions in the wake of the 2015 Planned Parenthood smear campaign, and she told ABC’s The View that “women don’t care about contraception,” but rather about jobs and families.
Advocates worldwide have looked to the US to play a lead role in championing reproductive rights at the United Nations. The Obama Administration’s leadership at the United Nations was critical toward ensuring the inclusion of universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—a bold set of global goals aimed at ending poverty and reducing inequality and injustice by 2030. The US has committed to achieving each of the 17 goals and targets outlined by the SDGs domestically and through its foreign policy. These include ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, and ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services. Nothing about the current composition of the Trump Administration, with Governor Haley playing a key role in multilateral negotiations and commitments, indicates that the US could meet its obligations to the SDGs.
At the United Nations, it isn’t just US commitments to the SDGs that are at stake. Reproductive rights have been embedded in UN agreements for more than two decades, since the landmark International Conference on Population and Development in 1994. Feminist advocates from Africa to Latin America and beyond have leveraged landmark treaties to secure laws and policies in their home countries that promote healthy lives and benefit millions of women and girls. A rollback of these commitments could dramatically set back decades of progress.
Governor Haley is an unfortunate choice to represent the United States at the single-most important multilateral institution prepared to tackle the world’s global challenges. Her hostility toward the United Nations, lack of credible foreign policy experience, and history of opposing women’s rights make her poorly suited to the task.