The US State Department announced Monday that the US will “reengage immediately and robustly” with the UN Human Rights Council, citing direct instruction from President Joe Biden. The decision comes nearly three years after the Trump administration withdrew the US from the Council in 2018.
“The Biden administration has recommitted the United States to a foreign policy centered on democracy, human rights, and equality,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Speaking to the US’s 2018 withdrawal, Blinken noted that the move “did nothing to encourage meaningful change.” The announcement, while critical of the Council’s “agenda, membership, and focus,” highlighted the Council’s ability to “shine a spotlight on countries with the worst human rights records and serve as an important forum for those fighting injustice and tyranny.”
Despite its flaws, Blinken said, the Council helps promote “fundamental freedoms around the globe, including freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and religion or belief.” He also emphasized the Council’s role in advancing the rights of marginalized communities, including women, girls, and LGBTQI+ persons. “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.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the decision from the US to reengage: “The United Nations looks forward to hearing the crucial voice of the United States across the Council’s urgent work.”
US Chargé d’Affaires Mark Cassayre, Deputy Chief of Mission to the UN and other international organizations, offered remarks on the decision at the Council’s organizational meeting in Geneva. He stated that the US would first reengage with the council as an “observer,” a role still allowing the US to speak to the council, participate in negotiations, and partner with other states to introduce resolutions.
The Council is an inter-governmental body comprised of 47 member States “responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.”