Which decisions by the US government do not affect anyone

USA: Orient new foreign policy to human rights

The US should try to take global leadership on human rights. Human Rights Watch has compiled twelve priorities for the upcoming US administration to create a right-wing foreign policy.

The United States has the power, influence and resources to improve the human rights situation beyond its borders. The global defense of human rights is more effective when the US unites with others to promote and protect human rights. Although US policymakers often advocate human rights and humanitarian values, the United States has not consistently defended human rights abroad and is guilty or complicit in serious human rights violations through its foreign policy and activities. The US government has often invoked human rights only occasionally or to achieve a short-term diplomatic goal. Instead, the President should commit himself in word and deed to a foreign policy that consistently gives priority to the promotion and protection of human rights and does not see them as just a means to an end.

Precisely because the United States has to contend with systemic racism and other human rights violations in its own country, it is particularly important for the President to ensure that US foreign policy helps to eliminate, and not exacerbate, discrimination around the world and to strengthen equality in law and practice.

President-elect Joe Biden can take the first step by clearly expressing his commitment to human rights-based foreign policy in a public speech. When his government takes office in January 2021, it should commit to the following points in order to establish a foreign policy that focuses on human rights.


  • Strengthen human rights at home in order to defend them credibly abroad
  • Support governments that respect rights rather than those who violate them
  • Take a global leadership role in climate protection
  • Participate in international talks to advance reform
  • Support human rights defenders
  • Protect and promote sexual and reproductive rights
  • Offer protection to asylum seekers and refugees
  • Ensure that any use of force is lawful and that civil harm is minimized
  • Do not deliver weapons to governments that disregard human rights
  • Bringing justice to victims of serious crimes
  • Give priority to human rights diplomacy
  • Support the fight against poverty and social inequality

An important principle of US foreign policy should be to respect human rights in one's own country. Many people in the United States have expressed their desire for freedom, equality and justice through protests and actions.

The US's credibility in promoting human rights around the world has been diminished by its disregard for rights within the United States itself. The mistreatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, the lack of affordable health care, the severe restrictions on the right to seek asylum while children are forcibly separated from their families at the border - these circumstances have led other countries to criticize the US as hypocritical or to dismiss selfishly. They also serve as inspiration for authoritarian regimes.

The failure of the US to address its history of systematic discrimination, mass incarceration, prolonged police violence and a lack of accountability for torture makes it difficult for its officials to denounce similar human rights violations by authorities in other countries.

Human Rights Watch's specific recommendations for the upcoming US administration regarding human rights in their own country are detailed here.

The US government is able to advance the protection and promotion of human rights around the world. The President should state explicitly that the United States will support governments who work to promote human rights and not reward those who violate human rights. As Covid-19 continues to test governments and their responsiveness, the president should speak out publicly against government seizures through contingency measures under the guise of fighting pandemics. It should make it clear that respect for rights is fully compatible with the protection of public health and safety.

The US can influence other states in a variety of ways, from a White House invitation and photo with the President to extensive US security and diplomatic assistance. The incoming administration should ensure that all US efforts are consistent with the promotion and protection of human rights. In meetings with other heads of state or government, human rights issues should be addressed both publicly and away from the cameras. Governments of countries that violate human rights should not be courted. When it comes to deciding whether a country will receive military aid, arms supplies, or other security aid, the government's human rights record should be an important factor in the decision.

The incoming government should use targeted sanctions against foreign officials and others involved in serious human rights abuses, including through robust and expansive use of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. The US should speak out against governments that violate human rights hosting multilateral events like the G20 summit, which would improve their international reputation. The US should respond to such awards with public criticism.

Climate change affects every region of the world with myriad effects on social and economic rights due to increasing conflict, forced migration and refugee movements. Government responses will affect rights to life, health and food. As the world's second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States should play a leadership role in fueling global efforts to both mitigate climate change and help people adapt to the effects of climate change. The upcoming government should rejoin the Paris Agreement. It should take ambitious measures to advance the goals of the agreement by drastically and rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a transition to clean energy.

The President should reaffirm his commitment to multilateralism and put human rights at the center of the government's international engagement. The US should again participate fully in the work of the UN Human Rights Council and resume payments to the UN Population Fund and the UN relief agency. They should stop the withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO) and join forces with their allies to support global health initiatives that do not violate reproductive rights. As the whole world is hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, the US President should ensure that US-funded research is shared with other nations and work towards global plans for the US to provide affordable vaccines.

The President should encourage the Senate to ratify major international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the UN -Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Furthermore, the President should end the use of anti-personnel mines and cluster munitions by the USA and join the relevant international prohibition agreements. To address fundamental concerns raised by the lack of human control over the use of force, the president should work with other countries to ban fully autonomous weapons.

US support for human rights defenders and others detained for the peaceful exercise of their rights has been instrumental in containing human rights abuses and promoting positive reform around the world. The United States' recent alliances with governments that commit human rights abuses and the silence on human rights issues mean that the United States has fewer resources to help those who advocate freedom and justice abroad.

The President should publicly declare that the United States will stand by human rights defenders around the world to enable them to do human rights work and speak up without fear of reprisals, establish non-governmental organizations, assemble peacefully, and seek information. to find and receive. The United States should seek the release of political prisoners and demand accountability for any mistreatment.

The President should clarify that sexual and reproductive rights are human rights and a key priority by promptly issuing a decree to end the Protecting Life in Global Health Policy (also known as the Global Gag Rule or Mexico City Policy ”), including its extensions. The decree should also clarify what assistance is permitted under applicable law, both domestically and internationally, to ensure access to full reproductive health care, including abortion, to the maximum extent permitted.

The protection of sexual and reproductive health and rights should be a priority not only of US policy, but should be promoted by the United States around the world and in multilateral contexts. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should assess the implementation of these rights worldwide in its annual human rights country reports. The President should oppose the report by the Commission on Inalienable Rights, which sought to establish a hierarchy of rights that is inconsistent with international human rights law and US international legal obligations.

The US government in recent years has taken a regressive stance on the rights of people fleeing persecution and other human rights abuses abroad. It has practically closed its national borders for asylum seekers, abolished asylum procedures and drastically reduced the number of refugees admitted. It has pressured foreign governments to participate in programs that violate human rights and put people back in danger.

The upcoming government should reaffirm its commitment to refugees by ensuring that its immigration and border policies protect the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. The US should recognize that its approach to refugee protection influences the policies of other countries and should lead the way in the generous reception of refugees. The reception of refugees is an opportunity to take on international responsibility and show solidarity, as well as to support countries that are in the immediate vicinity of trouble spots and there accept the overwhelming majority of refugees worldwide.

In protecting asylum seekers, the US should address the underlying systemic causes that drive people to flee their countries. This is possible, among other things, through aid initiatives abroad aimed at promoting due process, accountability and fair economic development, combating corruption, violence, discrimination and environmental degradation and strengthening the rule of law. The US government should end political pressure and the funding of human rights abuses by immigration authorities beyond its borders that aim to violate the right to leave one's country, the right to asylum, or violate other human rights.

The United States is involved in armed conflict around the world, both overtly and covertly. In these conflicts, all US armed forces are bound by international humanitarian law (martial law).

The President should review US policies on the use of force and the authorities involved to ensure compliance with international law. Covert actions are inherently opaque, so that those responsible cannot be held accountable by either the public or the victims. The incoming administration should ensure that any use of force by the United States complies with all applicable norms of human rights and international law.

In places where martial law does not apply, for example outside of a recognized armed conflict, US soldiers should strictly adhere to international human rights norms, which give priority to the right to life and which only allow deadly force to be used in the event of an imminent threat to life. US forces should not partner with foreign forces that have repeatedly violated international law.

The incoming government should ensure that the Ministry of Defense's future policy to protect civilians is comprehensive and transparent, and takes into account protection risks associated with new forms of warfare. Allegations that civilians were harmed by US actions abroad should be promptly and impartially investigated, with the involvement of civil society. This should lead to adequate accountability and teaching and redress for victims and their families.

The US government currently allows US companies to sell weapons, technology and materials to countries around the world where human rights are violated. Sometimes these weapons are used to commit predictable war crimes; another time they end up in a state's arsenal in order to later be used against the country's own citizens. The US arms sales come with US credibility and support.

The President should commit to setting new human rights standards for the sale and delivery of US weapons, technology and materials. The government should immediately carry out an inter-agency review of arms sales and deliveries, including to foreign law enforcement agencies, with the aim of promoting human rights-based policies.

A new policy for the supply of conventional arms should be human rights based and set high standards for trade and delivery. A robust review process should ensure that only governments that commit to upholding international human rights norms and law receive US military assistance. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should take the lead by consulting independent organizations working directly in the affected countries to provide a close look at conflicts and partner operations. The US should adopt a moratorium on arms sales and deliveries, including to foreign law enforcement agencies, until these processes are in place and implemented.

The President should work with Congress to strengthen and expand the application of Leahy Laws. These prohibit US military support for foreign military units who commit serious human rights violations. The US should also reform the Arms Export Control Act to strengthen human rights and ensure notifications to Congress of arms shipments so that the legislature can exercise oversight.

Ensuring accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and other serious crimes that violate international law is an essential element of upholding human rights and the rule of law around the world. The president should signal that the United States is committed to justice for serious international crimes, regardless of where or by whom they are committed. As a first step in this direction, the future government should monitor its own past human rights violations worldwide and commit itself to preventing future human rights violations.

The President should ensure US support for the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the court of last resort, which works in fair trials for justice for victims who otherwise have no legal recourse.He should immediately repeal the decree authorizing sanctions to undermine the work of the ICC. The US should work towards acceding to the Rome Statute of the ICC by committing itself with the 123 member countries to punish the most serious international crimes.

Even as a non-member, the USA can provide support in ICC cases, for example by cooperating in the arrest of fugitives and the provision of evidence. The incoming administration should also support other international and domestic judicial efforts and international investigative mechanisms, as well as cases of atrocities in US courts under universal jurisdiction laws.

The President-elect will be in office on the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. No one was held criminally responsible for these attacks due to the years of missteps by previous US administrations. Suspects have been detained without due process in Guantanamo Bay, alleged perpetrators have been tortured and then tried to prosecute them in fundamentally inadequate military commissions. The President should ensure that those responsible for the 9/11 attacks are properly prosecuted in the ordinary federal courts and that the Guantanamo Bay detention center, where 40 men are currently held, is closed.

In the past two decades the torture, rendition, and other serious crimes committed by US officials, including those at the highest levels, during the "global war on terror" have not been adequately dealt with. The President should commit to a thorough US investigation into torture by holding all those responsible to account and undertaking not to reward or promote anyone responsible for developing, supporting or implementing this policy. The Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's torture program should be released immediately.

All US foreign aid initiatives should take into account human rights imperatives and implications. Strategies for economic, technological and trade relations should also be based on human rights.

US relations with foreign governments can deter human rights abuses. Strong public and private diplomatic messages in the event of human rights violations can also urge states to end them, hold those responsible to account while ensuring justice for the victims and adopting the reforms necessary to put an end to systemic human rights violations.

The next government should send a clear message to its diplomatic corps that human rights will be at the heart of their daily work. The heads of diplomatic missions should be trained in international human and humanitarian law. They should be regularly briefed on the human rights situation in their host countries, including from various local civil society groups, particularly those representing marginalized groups.

Peace negotiations, peacekeeping missions and treaty talks should always be based on human rights. They should promote US commitments under UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions on women, peace and security, and the 2017 US Women, Peace and Security Act.

Poverty, precarious financial conditions and social inequalities have increased worldwide as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has had a disproportionate economic impact on many already socially and economically marginalized groups, including women, children, people with disabilities, migrants, informal sector workers and people living in informal settlements, and threatens their human rights to food, medical care, Housing, education and a decent standard of living. The World Bank estimates that Covid-19 will plunge up to 150 million more people into extreme poverty by 2021, contributing to "higher income inequality, less social mobility among the weak and less resilience to future crises".

Finding a way out of the Covid 19 crisis is a question of fighting poverty and saving life and health. It is a transnational challenge where countries depend on each other for their recovery. The President should ensure that the US works with WHO and other countries to ensure that a US-developed Covid-19 vaccine is available and affordable to everyone around the world. It should also take the necessary measures to ensure that companies that manufacture and sell vaccines do so transparently and at affordable prices.

The US should make coordinated efforts to counter the risks of excluding an entire generation of women and girls from economic participation. In this way, they should remove the barriers that prevent women and girls from such full participation. These include increasing gender-based violence, unpaid care work and an increased risk that adolescent girls will not go to secondary school.

To counter growing economic vulnerability and promote inclusive growth during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. should extend its support to resource-scarce countries, social security, and preventing austerity. Development initiatives and projects should be in accordance with human rights and be carried out in consultation with those directly affected by funding.