US to seek UN Human Rights Council seat: State Department News
US to seek UN Human Rights Council seat: State Department

[JURIST] The US will seek a seat on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] this year, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton [official profile; JURIST news archive] and US Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice [official profile] announced [press release] Tuesday. Clinton explained that the decision was based on a desire to increase US involvement in ensuring UN member nations act in accordance with the UN Declaration on Human Rights [text], noting that the US "helped to found the United Nations and retains a vital stake" in advancing UNHRC values. Rice added that the US is seeking election to the Council in hopes that working within the UNHRC will "make the council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights." A statement [UN press release] from UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon greeted the announcement with enthusiasm:

Full United States engagement on human rights issues is an important step towards realizing the goal of an inclusive and vibrant intergovernmental process to protect human rights around the globe. The Secretary-General also welcomes the announcement as a concrete embodiment of the United States commitment to a “new era of engagement”.

Election proceedings to fill three of the council's 47 seats are scheduled for May 15 at the UN Headquarters in New York. New Zealand offered to withdraw its candidacy [Washington Post report] to allow the US to run unopposed for the three-year position.

The UNHRC was created [JURIST report] in 2006, at which time the Bush administration declined to seek a Council seat or participate in its proceedings. In February, human rights groups and politicians criticized the Obama administration for apparently continuing the Bush policy, after the State Department remained silent [JURIST report] during the most recent UNHRC periodic review [materials]. State Department spokesperson Robert Wood defended the delegates' silence, saying that the US was not actively participating because the Obama administration was still deciding how it wanted to interact with the Council. Wood said that the US had representatives attending and monitoring the UPR sessions, and that its abstention from the reviews did not mean that human rights were not a priority for the administration.