Banners created by U.K.-based human rights group Amnesty International hang over Vauxhall Bridge in central London on Monday to coincide with President Trump's visit. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump is not known as a supporter of international human rights. However, late last week, the Trump State Department announced a new Commission on Unalienable Rights to provide advice and recommendations regarding international human rights policy. Advocacy NGOs are likely to be unhappy, as the commission is likely to attack many of their preferred policies, using human rights — albeit a very different set of rights than most activists prefer — as a justification.
The United Nations likes to argue that there is an “indivisible” rights culture in which “the improvement of one right facilitates advancement of the others.” The new U.S. initiative suggests this may be wrong.
The commission will focus on natural law and natural rights
As its anachronistic title suggests, the Commission on Unalienable Rights will focus on how current “human rights discourse” has “departed from our nation’s founding principles of natural law and natural rights.” Those principles, their scope and application were controversial when the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that all men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” In the Revolutionary era, slaves, women and men without property experienced a notably different reality.