Trump’s triumph has left the world shocked. His win leaves us with more questions than answers thanks to his campaign being almost entirely devoid of solid policy. So what are the key questions for aid workers?
1. What does the future hold for USAID?
US overseas development aid (ODA) is the largest in the world and while it has its faults this shouldn’t be forgotten. Trump’s campaign was light on policy, but the rhetoric of the campaign has been inward looking with an emphasis that leadership starts with supporting those at home. There is no clear strategy yet but we shouldn’t be surprised if at the very least ODA becomes tied to increasingly tough conditions designed to economically benefit the US. This in itself isn’t anything new – it’s been an issue for decades but the nature of the ties under Trump will be key.
2. How will he manage Syria?
This is perhaps the most pressing area where Trump’s complete lack of foreign policy experience is at its most terrifying. His unpredictability feels deeply dangerous in such a complex conflict.
Whilst Syria isn’t the only conflict that the US is involved in it is the most dangerous. Increasing brinksmanship by Russia, slaughter in Aleppo and the war against IS makes managing it challenging for an experienced foreign policy, never mind an amateur to that environment.
As James Denselow shared in the summer in his piece on What if Trump decides US Syria Policy: ‘Another unverified report suggests that in discussions with security officials Trump spoke about nuclear weapons quipping that “if we have them, why can’t we use them?”.
There has been no indication of wanting to protect civilians, and he wants even less to do with refugees…
3. What does this mean for refugees?
Trump’s rhetoric around migration, refugees and Muslims is some of the most disturbing elements of the campaign. The damp squib of a summit on refugees in September now looks like a critically missed opportunity with a new President who, on the face of it, will not want to do anything for them – especially having been elected by an electorate strongly concerned by immigration (64% of Trump voters saw this as the most important issue).
There is hope that he’ll move to the centre ground now he has won..… but this feels like clutching at straws.
4. What will the long term impact be?
While there are critical needs that Trump will need to address around the world, it could be his longer term decisions that have the greatest impact on aid. He has a four year term before re-election, which includes the implementation of Paris agreements. There is also the potential that he is re-elected after 4 years, meaning a Trump Presidency for 8 years – either way the consequences of his decisions will last longer than his term.
His views on climate change are perhaps most worrying. While climate related disasters are increasing around the world Trump’s views are pretty clear. His infamous 2012 tweet is just the start of it. He has repeatedly stated that he doesn’t accept the science behind climate change and that he wants to dismantle the Paris accord – crucial in the fight against climate change and the disasters it will bring.
5. Does there need to be a new world order?
For better or worse the US has been central in the last century to many of the humanitarian responses around the world – particularly when it comes to funding. New donors and influencers will need to be found. Will this be the time that the Gulf states can rise to prominence?