Now we must build bridges, not walls | ActionAid UK

Now we must build bridges, not walls

It feels as if we stand at a critical moment in history. As the world absorbs the momentous and unexpected American election result, it is more important than ever that we stand together in optimism and redouble our efforts to build bridges between our nations. When the world feels divided it is up to us to bring people together. To remind ourselves that we have far more in common than that which divides us.  

Women and children standing on a ridge in Polochic valley, north Guatemala
Women and children from Inup Agua Caliente community standing on a ridge overlooking their land in northern Guatemala

In our London office this morning, the feeling is overwhelmingly one of shock and disbelief. Though not everyone is surprised, of course. 

For many, the US election has echoes of Brexit here in the UK – and it’s clear that as countries we share many of the same anxieties and worries. They have now been magnified and cannot be ignored.”

As we try to understand what has happened and why – and what happens next — I remember what I wrote immediately after the Brexit vote in June 2016:

“Many people who voted the way they did, did so because of anger — at the establishment, at the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of an unaccountable few, at political parties who didn’t listen to them, at an increased sense of being alienated in their own country.”

“These are the same drivers of poverty that we see in our work - inequality, discrimination against women, unresponsive governments, regressive tax systems, lack of decent jobs and investment in public services. These are the root causes of poverty that we are fighting across the world.”

I think these words apply today too in the American context.

As with Brexit, there is a lot of anger, fear and disbelief at the reality of a president-elect Trump. Fear of the unknown and of what the future might look like – not just for the USA, but for the entire world, and what this means for democracy. We are in uncharted territory.

But I feel very strongly that we have a choice now. A choice not to give in to fear and despair. We can make the conscious choice to be optimistic and hopeful.”

We shouldn’t forget the progress that’s been made in terms of democracy, women’s rights, and the fight to end poverty, both in America and around the world – this shouldn’t be, and mustn’t be a reversal of that progress.

Now is the time for us to come together to make our voices heard and stand up for our beliefs in solidarity. Now our work is more important than ever. We need to stand by our values of humanism, tolerance, respect - all the human values we hold dear.

We are lucky enough to be part of the ActionAid global family – which includes millions of voices from around the world. My colleague Marie Clarke, Executive Director of ActionAid USA said this morning:

Now that the election is over, the work of healing a divided nation begins. We encourage President-elect Trump to move away from insults and negativity, and towards building an administration that places the rights of all people and the health of our planet at its center.

“ActionAid USA will redouble its efforts to build bridges of solidarity between people living in poverty and exclusion across the world with those Americans that are dedicated to realising a more just, equitable and sustainable world.

“We appeal to President-elect Trump and all global leaders to find ways to build bridges, not walls between our nations.”

We stand shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues in the USA and around the world.

We must continue to fight prejudice on every level and teach our children and future generations how to live together with mutual respect and hope. That is what ActionAid is all about. I hope you’ll stand with us.