The Trump White House has systematically deprioritised human rights over the last 18 months in a major departure from previous administrations.
At the same time as the administration has pulled back from human rights, democracy promotion and multilateral engagement, China, Russia and other states have grown more assertive in challenging democratic norms, both at home and globally.
White House tumult and lack of policy coherence has allowed some human rights and democracy concerns to be addressed by lower-level State Department activity and limited congressional activism.
There are signs that Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, might emphasise human rights more than his predecessor, but it is too early to tell and highly possible that Trump’s disinterest will continue, accentuating an incoherent approach.
While taking account of strategic considerations and regional sensitivities, Australia should strengthen its promotion of human rights and governance in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific to support the rules-based order.
United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney 2018