The United States on Thursday regained a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council, which the Trump administration abandoned in 2018 over what it called the hypocrisy and anti-Israel prejudices of the United States. ‘organization.
Seeking to join the 47-member council, the Biden administration, which took a much more pro-United Nations stance than its predecessor, argued that American interests would be better served if the United States were a member seeking a change from the inside.
The United States won a three-year term for one of 18 open council seats, effective January, in a vote by the 193-member General Assembly.
Based in Geneva, the Council is considered the most important human rights body in the world. Although it has no enforcement or criminal sanction powers, the council can undertake investigations that help shape a country’s global image. It can also influence their behavior if they are seen as having a bad rights record.
But the council has a wide range of critics who argue that many of its elected members are themselves human rights violators, citing examples like China, Russia, Cuba and Venezuela. The presence of these countries on the council, critics say, undermines the legitimacy of its work.
Many also oppose a standing item on the Council’s agenda regarding rights violations in the Palestinian territories, which has become the basis of its many resolutions condemning Israel.
The Biden administration’s success in joining the council may now test its stated purpose of strengthening America’s human rights advocacy around the world. Many conservative Republicans have opposed reinstatement, and there is no guarantee that the United States will not withdraw from the council again if a Republican wins the White House in 2024.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, announcing the Biden administration’s intention last February to regain a seat on the board, recognized what he called its challenges, “including unacceptable prejudices against Israel and membership rules that allow countries with atrocious human rights records to occupy seats they do not deserve.”
But he said “it is better to improve the board and move its critical work forward with a seat at the table.”
As if to highlight the challenges Mr. Blinken cited, several countries with poor or questionable human rights records also won council seats on Thursday, including Cameroon, Eritrea, the United Arab Emirates and the United Arab Emirates. Honduras.
With its return to the Human Rights Council, the Biden administration has again reversed its predecessor’s movements towards American isolationism.
President Biden revived the United States’ membership in the World Health Organization, reinstated the Paris climate accord, and restored funding to UN agencies that had been cut. These agencies include the United Nations Population Fund, one of the main providers of maternal health and family planning services, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which helps Palestinians classified as refugees.
Under the voting system for open seats on the Human Rights Council, the lists of candidates are divided into five geographic regions, and any member of the General Assembly is eligible, except those who complete two consecutive terms in office. Advice. Voting is by secret ballot. A simple majority of 97 votes is required to win. In cases where the number of candidates exceeds the number of open seats, the highest voter wins.
This year, however, the number of candidates from each region was equal to the number of open seats in that region, meaning none of the seats were contested. Rights groups outside the United Nations have called this part of the problem.
“Lack of competition in this year’s Human Rights Council vote mocks the word ‘election'” Louis Charbonneauthe UN director told Human Rights Watch in a statement ahead of the vote. “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 Council’s core mission of protecting human rights . “
Other newly elected or re-elected members included The Gambia, Benin and Somalia from the African group; Qatar, Kazakhstan, India and Malaysia from the Asian group; Argentina and Paraguay from the Latin America and Caribbean group; Luxembourg and Finland from the western group; and Lithuania and Montenegro from the Eastern European group.