The United States was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council for the first time since Trump the administration has resigned the international body in 2018, citing what it called a “chronic bias” against Israel.
The State Department announced Tuesday that Washington has won a council seat for its next term, starting in 2022.
“We will work hard to ensure that the Council upholds its highest aspirations and better supports those who struggle against injustice and tyranny around the world,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
Biden administration announced plans to join Human Rights Council earlier this year in a declared attempt to overturn some of former President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies, which saw the United States withdraw from several international organizations.
The Human Rights Council has been the subject of bipartisan criticism in the US Congress for its reports and statements on Israeli abuses against Palestinians.
But the Biden administration argued that Washington would best serve its interests by being at the table of UN agencies to help shape the internal debate.
“The Council provides a forum where we can have open discussions on ways we and our partners can improve,” Blinken said in a statement Thursday. “At the same time, it also suffers from serious flaws, including disproportionate attention to Israel and the adherence of several states with blatant human rights records. “
State Department spokesman Ned Price reiterated Blinken’s message later today, saying the United States would “vigorously oppose” the Council’s focus on Israel. But he defended the decision to join the UN body.
“If we want to help shape institutions – to help them achieve their highest aspirations, which we intend to do with the Human Rights Council, to help them promote values, interests that the United States and our partners share – we need to be there, ”Price said.
The Human Rights Council has 47 member states from five geographic regions elected for a three-year term by the United Nations General Assembly.
The Geneva-based body was created by the UN in 2006 with the aim of promoting and protecting human rights.
The Trump administration left the board three years ago, with then-UN envoy Nikki Haley calling it a “hypocritical and selfish organization.”
Blinken presented the return to the Human Rights Council on Thursday in the context of President Joe Biden’s efforts to restore Washington’s global commitments.
“From the early days of this administration, President Biden has made it clear that our foreign policy will be based on the democratic values dearest to the United States: defending freedom, defending opportunity, defending human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect the rule of law and treat everyone with dignity, ”said Blinken.
However, some human rights defenders criticized administration, saying it has not done enough to hold US allies accountable for human rights violations.
There were no competitions Thursday to elect 13 new members and re-elect five members of the Human Rights Council.
The General Assembly also elected Kazakhstan, Gambia, Benin, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Paraguay, Honduras, Luxembourg, Finland, Montenegro and Lithuania and re-elected Cameroon on Thursday , Eritrea, Somalia, India and Argentina.
Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch denounced the lack of competition in the vote.
“The lack of competition in this year’s Human Rights Council vote makes a mockery of the word ‘election’,” Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
“The election of serious human rights abusers like Cameroon, Eritrea and the United Arab Emirates sends a terrible signal that UN member states do not take seriously the fundamental mission of the Council to protect human rights. the man. “