Some of these stand out as being particularly timely, including:

The World Health Organization

Trump withdrew the US from the WHO in April, weakening the global response to the pandemic at a crucial time. (The US was the WHO’s main source of funding.)

Biden reversed that decision and will send a delegation, headed by top US infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci, to the 148th session of the WHO Executive Board. During that meeting, which will last until Jan. 26, public health leaders will discuss pandemic preparedness and response (pdf), and Fauci will make a speech.

Trump condemned the WHO from the start of the pandemic, accusing the agency of mishandling the crisis, pandering to China, and maligning his decision early on to close US borders to some foreign visitors. While Trump’s decision to leave the WHO was extreme, there is broad agreement that the organization is in need of reform. Biden has committed to taking up that cause, with plans to “work with the WHO and our partners to strengthen and reform the organization, support the Covid-19 health and humanitarian response, and advance global health and health security.”

That pledge comes not a moment too soon, as the US death toll from Covid-19 passes 400,000.


Trump once said he would prevent all immigration into the US. That didn’t happen, but over his four years in power, he radically changed US immigration policy.

Among other things, Trump tried, and failed, to reverse DACA; allocated $15 billion to build a wall at the US border with Mexico in order to keep undocumented migrants out; and weakened the rules allowing qualified immigrants to enter a lottery to obtain H-1B visas. He banned the citizens of 13 countries from obtaining most types of visas to enter the US, and for a while separated children from their families when they arrived at the border to seek asylum.

Biden has said he will sign an executive order revoking Trump’s immigration policies. He will direct the Department of Homeland Security to develop an alternative immigration policy that will pause the construction of the border wall while figuring out how to best redirect the funding; use the institutions of government to “preserve and fortify” DACA; and reverse Trump’s travel ban and his decision to prevent the Census from counting undocumented immigrants.

Climate change

Trump presided over a historic rollback in environmental regulation as part of his war on red tape. He replaced Obama’s signature policy, the Clean Power Plan, with a weaker rule on affordable clean energy—a move the US Court of Appeals struck down just yesterday. He has denied climate change, and routinely casts doubt on the experts, even from his own administration, who say climate change is getting worse.

Biden’s plans for the climate are ambitious. His first move will see the US rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. His second is an executive order with different action items, including:

Biden is coming out of the gate with ambitious plans to reverse the last four years and move forward as a country dedicated to global leadership on climate change, social justice, and public health. As ever, it will be up to engaged citizens to hold his administration to those promises.

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