By Ellen Wulfhorst

Global goals to end poverty and aid to the developing world are at risk of severe setback under U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, whose campaign rhetoric was ominous and whose plans are vague, experts said on Tuesday.

The makeup of Trump's administration remains uncertain three weeks after his Nov. 8 election, as he has made few appointments to key positions affecting foreign aid, according to experts assembled for an online panel by the Overseas Development Institute, a London-based think tank.

"It does not appear that President-elect Trump has a considered world view of any sort," said Reuben Brigety, dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

"As a result, we really do not know what he's going to do," Brigety said. "I suspect, frankly, that we will see him make this up as he goes along."


Trump, who has no foreign affairs or political experience, has advocated an "America First" position with the slogan "Make America Great Again" in his unexpected victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Among the few appointments he has made is that of South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. She also lacks foreign policy experience.

Trump's pronouncement that he would "stop sending foreign aid to countries that hate us" and instead invest in U.S. infrastructure spells likely cuts in foreign assistance, said Susan Page, former U.S. Chargé d' Affaires to the African Union.

"We may be facing more of an isolationist policy that could lead to less stable and secure countries," she said. "That's a bit worrying."

Trump promised to build a wall along the southern U.S. border to keep out Mexican immigrants that he said were rapists and criminals. He also threatened to ban Muslim immigration to the United States.

Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, a policy research institute in Beirut, said she sees a dangerous rollback in human rights, given Trump's "affinity for strongmen" such as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"This is music to the ears of extremists," said Yahya. "It's basically a self-fulfilling prophecy of, 'Look, the West really has abandoned us. They don't care about us. The only people who care about us is the more extreme agenda.'"

The ambitious global goals adopted in 2015 by the United Nations to end extreme poverty and inequality, champion the rights of women and girls and resolve the world refugee crisis all may falter in the Trump era, said Alex Their, ODI's incoming executive director.

"When you look at pronouncements during the campaign around foreign policy and particularly development policy, it doesn't look good," Thier said.

"The United States, when it is its best self, has the potential to move the world in positive directions as well as negative directions," he said.

Trump, a real estate developer and television celebrity, is slated to succeed outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama and begin a four-year term on Jan. 20, 2017.

-Thomson Reuters Foundation

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