America First and the Human Rights Regime

Kurt Mills (Lead / Corresponding author), Rodger A. Payne

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)
    117 Downloads (Pure)


    Donald Trump’s populist, nationalist “America First” agenda advocates a transactional, zero-sum, hypercompetitive, and sovereigntist view of US foreign policy, which many scholars and policymakers conclude poses a considerable challenge to multilateralism. We explore the threat America First presents to the international human rights regime as reflected in important institutions and norms. We survey America First policies regarding immigration and refugee norms as well as norms prohibiting torture and war crimes. We examine its position on the UN Human Rights Commission and the International Criminal Court, consider Trump’s sympathies for autocratic governments, and explore the development of the Commission on Unalienable Rights. Finally, we explain why the America First norm transgressions pose a novel threat to the human rights regime, potentially more worrisome than prior US norm violations. America First’s performative element risks reconstituting US identity as an outsider state, if not an outlaw, vis-à-vis the international community.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)399-424
    Number of pages26
    JournalJournal of Human Rights
    Issue number4
    Early online date16 Sept 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


    • Human Rights
    • US Foreign Policy
    • Donald Trump

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Political Science and International Relations


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