2021-2022 Trócaire Annual ReportLearn More
Donald Trump’s inauguration radically alters global politics. Shock waves from his election continue to reverberate throughout the world as political leaders struggle to get to grips with the new order.
While Trump’s relationship with the EU and Russia has been much debated, the impact of his Presidency on the world’s poorest nations has received much less attention.
His election impacts the developing world in many ways, but five issues are worth particular attention.
1. Climate change
Trump has already appointed a climate change sceptic – Scott Pruitt – to the key position of head of the Environmental Protection Agency. His hostility towards science and enthusiastic embrace of coal and oil is a nightmare scenario for anybody who cares about the future of the planet.
The Paris Agreement – a vital international agreement in the battle against climate change – came into effect four days before the US election. On the campaign trail Trump promised to “cancel” the Agreement. Thankfully, the deal has been structured in such a way that it would take four years for any country to back out, but that has not stopped calls from his supporters to follow through on his pledge.
The new US President champions coal production and has stated his desire to reduce regulation and restrictions on mining and fossil fuel production. Days after Trump’s election, governments from around the world gathered at the UN Climate Change Conference and pointedly stated that “momentum is irreversible”. Any attempt by the new US administration to counter this would seriously weaken global progress. This will have a devastating impact, especially on the developing world, where people are already struggling in the face of worsening drought and extreme weather.
2. Overseas Development Aid
During the election he promised to “stop sending foreign aid to countries that hate us”. While this is open to huge interpretation, it signals the new US President’s desire to further politicise aid by only funding countries with governments considered friendly to US interests.
US overseas development assistance in 2015 amounted to $31bn. While this amounts to just 0.17 per cent of its Gross National Income (GNI), it clearly has a huge impact. About a third of American aid is directed at health programmes, so any reduction would have an immediate impact on progress against disease, particularly in Africa.
Rather than scrap aid, Trump is more likely to use it as a political tool. He will use aid money as a way to influence domestic policies across Africa and the Middle East. Given Chinese influence in Africa, this could spark a mini-Cold War across the continent as east and west prop up friendly regimes.
3. The Middle East
The only policy relating to this part of the world that he has been consistent on, is with regards to Israel and Palestine.
President Obama and Secretary of State, John Kerry, opposed Israel’s ongoing policy of settlement construction. Trump will likely give Benjamin Netanyahu a free pass to annex land and continue this policy.
Perhaps most worryingly, Trump’s stated intention to reverse decades of US policy, by moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, would enflame tensions in the region. Moves to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city, could instigate fresh violence in the region.
4. Women’s rights
Trump’s election was condemned by equality activists around the world.
In India, where women face endemic violence, activists said that Trump’s victory was devastating because of America’s global leadership role.
The rise of Trump could have a knock-on effect of reinforcing chauvinism. The developing world is already dominated by extremely patriarchal views.
It is estimated that one in three women worldwide have experienced either physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. Given the well-publicised comments by the new American President on the matter, his election is a huge setback for efforts to protect women around the world.
5. Latin America
Trump’s most publicised plan was his proposal to construct a wall along the Mexican border. Even if this plan never sees fruition, it seems inevitable that he will clamp down on migration.
Poor communities in Central America are often hugely reliant on remittances from relatives working in the United States. The casual nature of migration back and forth has echoes of Irish people’s reliance on the building sites of England in the past.
Migration is often seasonal, temporary and vital. I have been in villages in Guatemala and Honduras where money from America is the difference between having food and going hungry.
Trump’s hostility towards migration will have a devastating impact on these families.
Sadly, they are not the only ones bracing themselves for a stormy period ahead.