US government moves to rejoin UN Human Rights Council

The US will rejoin the UNHRC three years after the former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the global body. 

US rejoins UNHRC
US rejoins UNHRC

The United States President Joe Biden has moved to rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council- UNHRC three years after the former US President Donald Trump withdrew from the global body. This move is another reversal by Biden of Trump’s administration.

The Trump administration had withdrawn from the world’s most significant human rights body in 2018 over what Trump and his allies called unfair targeting of Israel. Reversing other decisions of former US President, Joe Biden has also joined the World Health Organisation and Paris Climate Accord which the Trump administration withdrew from while he was in office.

As per the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the decision of the Trump administration of withdrawing from UNHRC in 2018 did nothing to encourage meaningful change. It instead created a vacuum of US leadership which the nations with authoritarian agendas have used to their advantage.

Biden administration supports UNHRC agenda:

In an official statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken informed that the Joe Biden administration has recommitted the US to a foreign policy that is centered on human rights, democracy, and equality.

He added that the effective use of multilateral tools is a significant element of that vision and in that regard, the President has instructed the US Department of State to reengage immediately with the UNHRC.

UNHRC in need of reform:

The top US diplomat stated that the Biden administration recognizes that the UN Human Rights Council is a flawed body and is in need of reform to its membership, agenda, and focus, which also includes its disproportionate focus on Israel.

When its works well, the Council is able to shine a spotlight on the nations with the worst Human Rights records and can also serve as an essential form for those who have been fighting tyranny and injustice.

For addressing the council’s deficiencies and to ensure that it lives up to its mandate, the US must be at the table using the full weight of its diplomatic leadership.

What will be the US’s role once it returns to the council?

Washington will be returning to the council as a nonvoting observer and the full membership will be assessed later in 2021.

According to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in the immediate term, the country will engage with the Council as an observer. In that capacity, it will have an opportunity to speak in the Human Rights Council, participate in negotiations as well as partner with others for resolutions.

The return of the US to the council has come after the nations facing widespread criticism for the human rights violation tried to influence how the Council assesses wrongdoings.

Criticism faced by UNHRC:

In January 2021, the former US ambassador to UN Nikki Haley had commented that the Council is a cesspool of political crisis while adding that if Biden administration will rejoin the Council whose members include some of the world’s worst human rights violators and dictatorial regimes, it will fly in the face of US’s flight for Human rights.

Cuba, China, Russia, Eritrea, and Venezuela are all members of the UNHRC. The Republicans had also written a letter urging the President to not seek the membership of the council as it has been disproportionately targeting Israel over other members. It was the only country to be a permanent item on the Council’s agenda.

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