Trump and human rights

How should activists respond?

Photo: Marco Verch/Flickr CC BY 2.0

The day after Donald Trump’s surprising victory, openGlobalRights asked leading human rights figures, “How should human rights activists respond?”

Here, we curate the responses we receive, as leading scholars, activists and NGO leaders debate how best to grapple with the rise of an explicitly rights-rejecting superpower.


To protect human rights abroad, preach to Trump voters

August 29, 2019
By: Howard Lavine & James Ron

Religious leaders can help convince the most ethnocentric and authoritarian American voters to oppose ...

No, Americans don’t support airstrikes that kill civilians, even when they target terrorists

June 27, 2019
By: James Ron & Howard Lavine & Shannon Golden

Polls that show Americans support airstrikes against suspected terrorists ignore some very large caveats.

Americans to Trump: If war comes, follow the Geneva Conventions

June 27, 2019
By: Alexander H. Montgomery & Charli Carpenter

Recent studies argue that Americans are relatively insensitive to the laws of war. There’s only one ...

Fighting for indigenous rights in the Trump era

March 15, 2018
By: Tereza M. Szeghi

American Indians are actively resisting Trump’s efforts and working to achieve their civil and human ...

Five key battles for re-imagining democracy in a radically changed world

January 22, 2018
By: Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah

The challenges facing civil society now aren’t about reviving our weakening de-mocracies—they are about ...

Evidence indicates that we should be hopeful—not hopeless—about human rights

November 29, 2017
By: Kathryn Sikkink
Español | Português

We compare our current human rights situation not to the past but to an imagined ideal world, and thus ...

Trump’s threats to a liberal world order are not entirely new

November 24, 2017
By: David Forsythe

Trump’s attitude towards human rights is not entirely new: our presumed liberal world order is more ...

Using the Sustainable Development Goals as a weapon against populism

May 1, 2017
By: Martin S. Edwards & Lis Kabashi

The Sustainable Development Goals could give activists the rhetoric they need to hold the Trump administration ...

“Speaking truth to power:” a call for praxis in human rights

April 18, 2017
By: Alicia Ely Yamin

Human rights require struggles over power and systems of thought—not just fights against individual ...

Republicans move to break with the United Nations

March 24, 2017
By: Paige Berges

Republicans are revisiting a move to withdraw from the United Nations and related human rights treaties—what ...

Will human rights law actually protect us from fascism?

March 14, 2017
By: Eva Nanopoulos

Human rights regimes such as the European Convention on Human Rights are unlikely to shield citizens ...

Preparing for terrorism—and potential torture—under President Trump

March 7, 2017
By: Courtenay R. Conrad & Justin Conrad & James A. Piazza & James Igoe Walsh

Will Trump’s unequivocal position on torture affect how the US responds to future terrorist attacks?

Modi and Trump - voting strongmen, voting hate

February 27, 2017
By: Zahir Janmohamed

Donald Trump’s win in the US and Narendra Modi’s in India two years ago are both about the majority ...

Might Trump lead US activists to rediscover international human rights?

February 27, 2017
By: Mark Philip Bradley

Recent social justice struggles in the US have largely eschewed the language of global human rights. ...

Opportunities for resistance: Trump’s authoritarianism and the law

February 23, 2017
By: Stuart Wilson

Human rights values and rule of law are lost on authoritarians, but the need to clothe their action ...

The death knell of American Exceptionalism under Trump

February 16, 2017
By: David Forsythe

If Trump pushes his agenda too far, Republicans concerned with liberal democracy and rule of law might ...

The world is watching—corporate action on Trump travel ban

February 3, 2017
By: Salil Tripathi

Many corporations have already taken a stand against Trump’s travel ban, and corporate leaders advising ...

Human rights as a grassroots, transformative response to Trump’s “America”

January 11, 2017
By: Chris Grove
Español | العربية

Human rights—as a movement that critiques systemic inequalities and affirms our common humanity—offers ...

Making the human rights movement great again—amidst rising nationalism

December 29, 2016
By: James A. Goldston

As angry rhetoric and illiberal nationalism soars globally, the human rights movement needs clear thinking ...

Human rights groups are secretly US agents. True or false?

December 19, 2016
By: James Ron & David Crow
Español | العربية

For rights activists, Trump’s victory is a dark cloud with one silver lining. For the next four years, ...

Why the American Electoral College matters for human rights everywhere

December 5, 2016
By: Benjamin James Waddell

The history of the American Electoral College demonstrates the importance of combating violators of ...

Trump, the other and human rights in society

November 24, 2016
By: Inga T. Winkler

The stigmatization and “othering” we’ve seen in Trump’s campaign will perpetuate systemic inequalities.

A post-Brexit, post-Trump World could learn from Colombia

November 21, 2016
By: Christian Medina-Ramirez 

A shell-shocked America, a Brexit-divided United Kingdom and a crisis-stricken Europe: they should all ...

Bringing back waterboarding? Torture policy in Trump’s America

November 16, 2016
By: Lisa Hajjar

As the US prepares for president Trump, anyone who cares about human rights should be alarmed that he ...

Trump’s election makes US human rights pariah

November 15, 2016
By: David Petrasek
Español | Français

A Trump presidency poses a grave threat to human rights—not only in the US but also worldwide. For ...

Trump and the limits of human rights

November 14, 2016
By: Samuel Moyn
Español | Français

No matter how good our ancestors were in creating the international human rights system, it cannot change ...

International pressure on US human rights matters now more than ever

November 11, 2016
By: Kathryn Sikkink
Español | Français

Domestic politics are important, but we need international human rights law in the United States now ...

Fascism rising

November 9, 2016
By: Stephen Hopgood
Español | Français

Global institutions and principles now face their sternest test. Trump’s victory suggests human rights ...