This week, President Trump unveiled a new White House initiative — the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. This new effort, spearheaded by Ivanka Trump, the first government-wide initiative of its kind.
The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative aims to help 50 million women in developing countries realize their economic potential through workforce development and vocational education efforts; empowering female entrepreneurship; and eliminating the legal, regulatory and cultural barriers that prevent women from fully participating in their local economies.
While all of these are critical efforts, it is the last silo — working to eliminate the legal, regular and cultural barriers to women – that is the most important, and could set the tone for a more value-based approach to foreign policy.
In an op-ed announcing the initiative, Ivanka Trump noted:
Research suggests that the more women are excluded from full participation in a country’s economy, the likelier it is that the country will be involved in conflict and respond to a threat with immediate violence. When women are free to thrive, they bring national stability, as well as more jobs and economic growth.
Indeed, the research Ivanka refers to — a World Bank study — showed more broadly that, “Countries with low human rights standards, including low standards regarding gender equality, are more likely to have militarized and violent interstate disputes.”
The treatment of women in many parts of the world is abysmal and wholly incompatible with American values or even the most basic sense of human rights. Systemic and legal oppression of women includes allowing husbands in some countries to legally restrict their wives from working. In many countries, women are legally prevented from inheriting land and are unable to open a bank account without permission.
The Trump initiative is a welcome effort aimed at beginning to remove some of the regulatory and legal roadblocks to women’s economic rights.
It shouldn’t end with women’s rights either. One of our most valuable exports is our values and for too long our foreign policy and our tax dollars failed to reflect those values.
Far too many countries fail to respect basic human rights for women, gays and religious minorities — and it’s not just our enemies.
Seven of the top 10 recipients of U.S. foreign aid dollars make it a crime to simply be gay or lesbian. Indeed, in parts of Nigeria, which receives more than $400 million in taxpayer financed foreign aid, an individual can be sentenced to death for being gay.
Egypt, who is the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid — to the tune of $1.39 billion, frequently makes headlines for cracking down on gay individuals. Just last month, an Egyptian broadcaster was jailed for simply interviewing a gay man. In October 2017, 33 people were arrested after a gay pride flag was displayed at a pop concert.
Too many of our so-called allies are also guilty of oppressing religious minorities. A 2018 State Department release stated:
In far too many places around the globe, people continue to be persecuted, unjustly prosecuted, or imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief. Today, a number of governments infringe upon individuals’ ability to adopt, change, or renounce their religion or belief, worship in accordance with their religion or beliefs, or be free from coercion to practice a particular religion or belief.
On the list of “governments that have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom” was U.S. ally Saudi Arabia and placed on the watch list for “severe violations of religious freedom” was erstwhile ally Pakistan (the recipient of $837 million in U.S. foreign aid).
President Trump has been right to eschew the failed Bush-Obama foreign policy that risked putting brave young men and women in harm’s way without a sufficient nexus to American interests. His America first foreign policy has begun to reverse decades of endless wars and to bring American soldiers home.
We do not need boots on the ground, or to risk American lives, to have a foreign policy rooted in American values. We need more initiatives like the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative that will seek spread American values of liberty and freedom to every corner of the globe. Where and how we spend American tax dollars should always be a reflection of who we are and what values we hold.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.