On February 8, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the immediate U.S. re-engagement with the United Nations Human Rights Council, or the UNHRC.
The United States remains committed to a foreign policy centered on democracy, human rights, and equality. “Effective use of multilateral tools is an important element of that vision and, in that regard, President [Biden] has instructed the Department of State to re-engage immediately and robustly with the UN Human Rights Council,” Secretary Blinken explained in a statement.
At the same time, Secretary Blinken acknowledged that the Human Rights Council is “in need of reform to its agenda, membership, and focus, including applying a double standard to Israel.” However, he noted, “our withdrawal in June 2018 did nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of U.S. leadership, which countries with authoritarian agendas have attempted to use to their advantage.”
The United States believes the best way to improve the workings of the UNHRC is to work from within, said Spokesperson Price:
“When it performs as designed, the Council can be a powerful tool to promote fundamental freedoms, protect the rights of women, girls, LGBTQI+ individuals, and other marginalized communities – while promoting accountability for human rights violators around the world.”
The process of re-engaging in the UNHRC is underway in Geneva, where the U.S. Mission already participated in a regular organizational meeting of the council and a Special Session on the situation in Burma.
“For now,” said spokesperson Price, “that engagement will be as an observer, which will allow us to speak in the Council, participate in negotiations, and work with partners.”
As Secretary Blinken emphasized, “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.”