The United States President Joe Biden has worked to rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council- UNHRC three years after The United States had withdrawn from the Council in the year 2018 under the Presidency of Donald Trump. The decision reverses another Donald Trump presidency era move away from multilateral agreements and organizations.
Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, announced that United States will return to the U.N. HRC as an observer with an eye for seeking election as a full member. The decision is more likely to attract criticism from many in the pro-Israel community and conservative lawmakers.
The United States left the United Nations Human Rights Council back in 2018. President Donald Trump’s administration said that the Council was biased against Israel. Israel had received the largest number of critical council resolutions so far concerning any other country. So, the Trump administration discussed the issue with the body’s membership, including the member countries Cuba, China, Russia, Eritrea, and Venezuela, all of which have been accused of human rights abuses.
Although through the end of 2021, the United States will have an only observer and non-voting status on the United Nations Human Rights Council, the officials said the administration is focused on seeking one of three full member seats — currently occupied by Denmark, Austria, and Italy — from the “Western Europe and other states group.” The United Nations Human Rights Council comprises 47 U.N. Member States. All of them are elected by the UNGA by a secret and direct ballot. The United Nations General Assembly declares the choices to fill the vacancies for three years in a vote that takes place during October every year.
The United States’ engagement with the Council and the predecessor, the U.N. Human Rights Commission, has been quite difficult between the Democratic and Republican administrations for past years. However, Trump’s withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council was one of several U.S. retrenchments from the international community during the four-year term in office. Apart from this, he also walked out from the Iran nuclear deal, U.N. education and cultural organization, the World Health Organization, the Paris Climate Accord, and many arm control treaties. The Trump administration also hinted to pull out of the World Trade Organization and withdraw from the International Postal Union.
According to the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the Trump administration’s decision regarding withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2018 didn’t bring a meaningful change.
Biden Administration is supporting the United Nations Human Rights Council agenda
The Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in an official statement, has confirmed that the Joe Biden administration has recommitted the U.S. to a foreign policy that focuses mainly on human rights, equality, and democracy.
It has been stated by the top U.S. diplomat that the Biden administration recognizes that the United Nations Human Rights Council has many flaws and in need to reform its membership, focus, and agenda, which surely includes its inappropriate target on Israel. If it works well, the Council can concentrate on nations with the worst human rights records and focus on serving those who have been fighting injustice.
Now, what role will U.S. play after returning to the Council?
Washington will return to the UNHRC as an observer and non-voting. The election for full membership will be assessed late this current year.
As per Antony Blinken, the United States Secretary of the State, the country will get involved with the Council as an observer in the present term. Under this position, it will be able to get an opportunity to have a say in the Human Rights Council, participate in negotiations and resolutions.
The UNHRC faced a lot of criticism before. The former U.S. ambassador in January 2021 commented that the Council is a pool of political crisis. Cuba, China, Venezuela, Russia, Eritrea are the members of the Council. The Republicans wrote a letter requesting the President not to move for the Council’s membership as it has been wrongfully targeting Israel over other countries and that Israel alone was always on Council’s agenda.