More than half of the president’s Global Development Council — a high-level advisory group of business, civil society, and academic leaders who offer guidance on U.S. foreign assistance — have resigned, according to a former member of the council who shared information on condition of anonymity.
President Obama established the GDC by executive order in February 2012 in an effort to help advance his presidential policy directive elevating development to a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy. The panel has worked to craft policy recommendations to the administration, and then met to share and discuss those recommendations publicly with U.S. development partners.
Devex obtained a copy of one former member’s resignation letter.
John Norris — executive director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at the Center for American Progress who served on Hillary Clinton’s transition team — was appointed to the council in 2014. He submitted his resignation letter on Jan. 25, citing the Trump administration’s reinstatement and expansion of the “global gag rule” against family planning services and the administration’s refugee policies.
“I cannot in good conscience provide counsel to an administration that would so cavalierly increase the rate of needless mortality around the globe through an expanded global gag rule that will surely lead to more maternal deaths, more not less abortions, and more cases of HIV/AIDS,” Norris wrote.
“While the press may focus on Trump's obvious lies about crowd sizes and voter fraud, the actions he has taken on international development in less than a week will cause a wave of human suffering whose magnitude is enormous and run profoundly counter to our national interest,” he wrote.
The council formerly listed 11 members from outside the federal government. Devex contacted the council’s chair to confirm how many members remain, but had not received a response in time for publication.
Trump’s reinstatement of the global gag rule, which prohibits U.S.-funded organizations from speaking about abortion, was not a surprise. But the administration’s expansion of previous versions of the policy to include not just family planning providers, but any organization that receives U.S. global health funding*, was seen as a dramatic escalation of a policy many health experts already consider harmful to women’s health.
Marie Stopes International — which provides contraception and safe abortion services in 37 countries around the world — estimates that without alternative funding, the decreased availability of services could result in 2.1 million unsafe abortions and 21,700 maternal deaths between 2017 and 2020.
*Update Feb. 1, 2017: This article was updated to clarify that the expanded global gag rule applies to all U.S. global health funding.