Biden Administration Moving to Rejoin United Nations Human Rights Council

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
February 8, 2021Politics
Biden Administration Moving to Rejoin United Nations Human Rights Council
President Joe Biden makes brief remarks before signing several executive orders directing immigration actions for his administration in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, on Feb. 2, 2021. (Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)

The United States is reengaging with the United Nations’ Human Rights Council and plans to rejoin it, President Joe Biden’s administration announced Monday.

The council “is a flawed body in need of reform” but the U.S. withdrawal in 2018 not only didn’t encourage meaningful change, but “created a vacuum of U.S. leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage,” Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement.

“To address the Council’s deficiencies and ensure it lives up to its mandate, the United States must be at the table using the full weight of our diplomatic leadership,” he added.

Members are announced for the council once a year, meaning the United States cannot rejoin immediately. For now, the country will engage as an observer, speaking with it, participating in negotiations, and working with partners on introducing resolutions.

“It is our view that the best way to improve the Council is to engage with it and its members in a principled fashion. We strongly believe that when the United States engages constructively with the Council, in concert with our allies and friends, positive change is within reach,” Blinken said.

“While recognizing the Council’s flaws, we know that this body has the potential to be an important forum for those fighting tyranny and injustice around the world,” Mark Cassayre, U.S. charge d’affaires at the U.S. mission to the U.N. in Geneva, told reporters in Geneva. “By being present at the table, we seek to ensure it can live up to that potential.”

The reengagement fits into Biden’s outlook on international partnerships, with the belief that it’s better to try to change them from within than withdraw entirely.

The Trump’s administration withdrew the United States from the council nearly three years ago, pointing to some of the biggest human rights abusers, including China, being among the members.

un human rights council
Overview of the United Nations Human Rights Council is seen in Geneva, Switzerland June 6, 2017. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

“The Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights,” then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. “Worse than that, the Human Rights Council has become an exercise in shameless hypocrisy, with many of the world’s worst human rights abuses going ignored and some of the world’s most serious offenders sitting on the council itself.”

China is one of the current 15 members, along with Bolivia, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, France, Gabon, Malawi, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, Senegal, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and Uzbekistan.

The council started a new term on Jan. 1. Each nation is slated to be a member for three years. They cannot serve consecutive terms.

The United States could apply to fill one of three seats held by Western European countries Austria, Denmark, and Italy. Those seats are up for grabs in October.

Fijian diplomat Nazhat Shameem Khan, the new president of the council, told colleagues on Monday that the council would continue to work on responding to “deep inequalities” laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know, as a community of nations, that emergencies and disasters, whether caused by a climate crisis or a health emergency, have the effect of exacerbating existing inequalities and of deepening poverty,” Khan said. “This Council, and the constructive and inclusive nature of the dialogue it is able to host, is crucial to the building of societies which are fairer, resilient, and built on human dignity and equality. In doing so, the Human Rights Council takes on a role which is capable of transforming social, national and global relationships.”

There was no mention of, nor has the council tackled, some of the abuses by the Chinese Communist Party, such as the widespread detention of and genocide against Uyghurs in Xinjiang and its ongoing persecution of the Falun Gong spiritual group.

A group of House Republicans had urged Biden not to rejoin the council, alleging it “has failed to seriously advance the basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has instead bolstered some of the most oppressive regimes in the world.”

“The United States should not grant this body any further credibility with its membership,” they added.

From The Epoch Times